PF Chang’s China Bistro started out in 1993 with a simple idea: California needs a restaurant that serves “authentic” Chinese food. Now it has over 204 branches in the US, with 13 others spread around the world.
The first Asian branch was recently opened in Alabang Town Center—and from the long waiting list (one hour on weekends), it looks like the Asian debut is a success.
Archie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Global Restaurant Concepts Inc., brought the PF Chang franchise. The company is known for establishing CPK Pizza locally.
He said it’s a challenge to bring in Chinese food since the Philippines has a lot of Chinese restaurants—from those in the malls to the established ones in Binondo, Manila, but hopes Filipino diners would appreciate PF Chang’s “modern Chinese food” served in a chic Oriental setting.
Founder Philip Chiang, a US citizen with Chinese roots, flew in to Manila on the restaurant’s opening. He shared how the restaurant chain started.
“I was in charge of two Chinese restaurants in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood when co-founder Philip Fleming told me about the PF Chang concept,” he said. “We opened the first branch in 1993 in Scottsdale, Arizona.”
The name “PF Chang” is a play on the co-founders’ names.
“There are many Chinese restaurants in the US, and here in Asia,” Chiang said. “What sets us apart is the authenticity of the food and the simplicity of our dishes.”
The well-thought-out menu (with indicators for spicy and vegetarian selections) has standard Chinese entrees like the Kung Pao Chicken, Hot and Sour Soup, noodles, dumplings, fried rice. It offers so much variety, including lamb, and cocktails and desserts that you wouldn’t find in traditional Chinese restaurants. But Chiang clarified that the menu is not “fusion.”
Recipes of flagship items, he explained, were sourced from different regions in China but are given a contemporary approach in terms of presentation. The food doesn’t have cornstarch or MSG, and oil is minimally used.
Global bestsellers among the starters are the Chicken Lettuce Wraps, wok-seared minced chicken, mushroom, green onion and water chestnuts with crisp lettuce on the side; and the Dynamite Shrimp, crunchy shrimp tossed in zesty sauce served on a bed of lettuce in a martini glass.
For entrees, try out the Spicy Chicken, diced chicken breast in sweet-and-spicy sauce; Mongolian Beef, stir-fried US Angus beef with ginger, green onions, broccoli flowers; wok-braised Northern-Style Spare Ribs, pork ribs with five-spice salt rub; Crisp Honey Shrimp, fried battered shrimp in honey sauce; and Shrimp with Candied Walnuts, chunky shrimp and honeydew balls tossed in creamy base.
The items with sauces have a caramelized sweet taste—even the Chengdu Spiced Lamb, bite-sized pieces sautéed in cumin, mint and tomatoes.
Non-meat eaters can have Hunan-Style Hot Fish; Buddha’s Feast, baked tofu and mixed vegetables; Wok-seared Mushrooms; Sichuan-Style Asparagus with chili paste and garlic.
Kids have their own downsized meals—chicken fingers, egg noodles with chicken, and fried rice without veggies.
The two-level restaurant easily seats a hundred. Interiors are in earth tones with some red details. Wood and stone accent pieces gives the area a Southeast Asian touch, while glass panels allow natural light in. There is an island bar in the middle of the ground floor.
Tables are good for six, and the servings are good for sharing.
Cap off your meal with a dessert such as the Black Sesame Pavlova and Dark Truffle Dome Cake, which goes well with coffee. Or, have a funky-named drink from the bar: Forbidden City, Confucius Martini, Lucky Cat Martini, Warrior Smash, Sichuan Mary; plus choices of sakes and wines.
PF Chang’s China Bistro is at The Street in Alabang Town Center; open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. on weekdays, and until 1 a.m. on weekends. Visit www.pfchangs.com; PF Chang’s Philippines on Facebook.