The two humongous horses by the doorway of P.F. Chang's China Bistro are a pleasant whimsical surprise. And although they look like Chinese Tang Dynasty sentinels guarding the entrance to the mothership of dumplings, dimsum, and noodles, they are as welcoming as the warm restaurant staff asking how many people there are in your party for lunch or dinner. You can choose to dine downstairs, or upstairs. But wherever you go, huge statues of Chinese warriors standing in recessed spaces regard you with benign contemplation, as if egging on an appetite most appropriate for the feasting ahead.
Now, the decor and ambience may scream Chinese; terracota warriors, right? But it's Chinese with a twist, perhaps more appealing to those who are not necessarily that excited to savor the most authentic-down-to-the-last-water-chestnut Chinese comfort food.
Archie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Global Restaurant Concepts, was in search of a Chinese food concept that would make less traditional palates happy. And less drowsy from all of the oil and MSG that usually accompany true-blue Imperial cuisine. On trips to the U.S., his eyes and taste buds were riveted to P.F. Chang's. Perhaps the giant horses caught his eye and the smiling warriors beckoned. But more likely, it is P.F. Chang's fresh and eclectic approach to Chinese food that captured his discriminating taste.
"We're really not authentic Chinese cuisine," Archie says. "P.F. Chang's is a fusion of Chinese and American flavors."
The Asian-themed American casual dining restaurant P.F. Chang's China Bistro was born in1993 in Scottsdale, Arizona, to business partners Paul Fleming and Philip Chiang. So that also explains its name: P. F. for Paul Fleming and Chang for Philip Chiang, though the "i" was dropped. Since it first opened its doors to diners willing to wait in line (really long lines!) to get a table, P.F. Chang's has established its presence with over 200 branches in several countries like the U.S., Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada and the Middle East. Remarkably, the first P.F. Chang's in Asia is in the Philippines.
The culinary essences of both East and West merged in merry unison once again at P.F. Chang's recent launch at Bonifacio Global City, its second branch in the Philippines after Alabang Town Center.
The succession of dishes began with the signature appetizer Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Rather simple and healthy, actually: wok-seared minced chicken, mushrooms, green onions, and water chestnuts (there you go!) and wrap them in fresh crisp lettuce.
Speaking of fresh, how close to the flavors of the sea can you get with the sushi-grade Seared Ahi Tuna? Or crackling Dynamite Shrimp? Or Crab Wontons dipped into a spicy plum sauce? But carnivores can have their fix with the classic Pork Dumplings, both meaty and delectable.
Then someone stage-whispered: “Shrimp with Candied Walnuts!” So, come over here, you "tender shrimp tossed in a creamy sauce with candied walnuts and honeydew melon."
Note also Chang's Spare Ribs, slow cooked for hours and hours and hours to produce meat so tender it slides off the bone.
Ah, so, it's time for dessert.
Look at that Banana Spring Rolls, "six warm, crispy bites of banana served with coconut-pineapple ice cream and drizzled with caramel and vanilla sauces." Last I heard, no one seems to be complaining.
Now drum roll please, in anticipation of the Great Wall of Chocolate. With forks in hand, about four to six medium-sized friends (hating kapatid, ha) can swiftly topple that thick and gooey slab of "six rich layers of frosted chocolate cake topped with semi-sweet chocolate chips, served with fresh berries and raspberry sauce." Archie warned me about this dessert as my wide-eyed gaze followed one "wall" being carried by a waiter to the nearby table.
With a twinkle in his eye, the charming restaurateur dared me to finish one wall, all by myself. Ah, the spirit is willing but the blood sugar levels will definitely shoot up to infinity.(Apidra 10 units, quick!) And so I politely declined the challenge, although I took a teeny-weeny chip off the tantalizing block and tasted it with a diabetic's caution. That was heaven enough!
P.F. Chang's is located at W Global Center, Bonifacio Global City (664-5956) and at Corte, Alabang Town Center (869-7837).