By RICHARD DAVID CHAMBERLAIN
A few years ago, we spent an hysterically funny Valentine’s Day evening at P.F. Chang’s, the Chinese food emporium at the Galleria Mall. Like all branches of this national chain, the entrance to the restaurant is guarded by giant copies of the famous battle mounts of the terra cotta soldiers of Xian, China. The 11th century warriors who rode those steeds stake their claim to fame inside the eatery, where statues preside over the dining room.
This particular Valentine’s Day, we arrived at the scheduled time for our reservation, only to discover that it had somehow been lost in the system, and while we were promised the “very next table,” it was a wait of nearly an hour. Such is the popularity of P.F. Chang’s.
After being seated, we placed an order for Chinese 5 Spice Duo of Duck ($19.95), which is the wrong thing to order if you’re in a rush. Fortunately, after waiting an hour for a table, we were in no hurry for the food, content to just be seated. Twenty minutes into our order, the server announced that our duck had been delivered to the wrong table, and had been eaten by another guest!
When last our duck finally arrived, it turned out to be a very good meal—a slowed-cooked leg and breast, perfectly crispy with a cherry ginger chutney and sesame watercress salad. It still remains one of our preferred dishes at this restaurant that roams all over China to find its assortment of recipes.
Our favorite dish on the whole menu is the Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($7.95), with its filling of wok-seared minced chicken, mushrooms, green onions and water chestnuts, wrapped in crispy iceburg lettuce cups. It’s a Cantonese dish from the Olde Country that was originally made with minced pigeon. The version served here is a delight not to be missed. So, too, is the deliciously spicy Chang’s Chicken Noodle Soup ($7.95), a made-to-order chicken broth containing white hot pepper, shitake mushrooms, pin rice noodles, and grape tomatoes. Take the time to explore this subtle soup.
In Northern China, rice is a rarity, with wheat serving as the starch of choice. It’s translated here at P.F. Chang’s in its noodle dishes. Our very favorite is the Wok-Seared Lamb ($15.95), featuring semi-crisp egg noodles stir-fried with vegetables and a succulently-sauced, tender lamb cooked just so. It’s served with cilantro over cooling shredded lettuce.
The Szechuan region gets its nod with a classic Kung Pao Chicken ($13.95), prepared as you would expect with peanuts, chile peppers and scallions. Since Szechuan chefs use hot and pungent spices liberally, expect your taste buds to tingle. As this is Chinese cuisine sieved through the filter of American palates, the hot and spicy factor is on the mild side. You can increase the dose of heat at the table with the abundant selection of chili sauces available.
Vegetarians are not forgotten here either, with any stir-fried dish on the menu available in a tofu version. There’s also a flavorful selection of fish, as well. Our go-to preference is the Lemongrass Grilled Norwegian Salmon ($18.95), featuring a glaze of ginger, red peppers and lemongrass that is grilled to order and served atop asparagus.
Finish your meal off with Banana Spring Rolls ($5.95), six small sections of bananas wrapped in spring roll dough and lightly fried. These are served with a scoop of coconut pineapple ice cream with caramel and vanilla sauces. As you’re saying “yum,” tell them Florida Agenda sent you.
P.F. CHANG’S—Galleria Mall
2418 E Sunrise Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304