I have to start with dessert. Banana Spring Rolls ($6.50)!!! Six pieces, each basically a half of a spring roll. A thin, light & crispy spring roll covering a firm but soft banana. It is warm and the banana avoids being mushy. Caramel and vanilla sauces have been drizzled atop the spring rolls, which surround a large scoop of coconut-pineapple ice cream. There are also fresh slices of strawberry, some blueberries and raspberries on the plate. A decadent dessert with so many of my favorite flavors. With each bite of the springroll, I smeared some creamy ice cream atop it. I could skip lunch or dinner and just have this delectable dessert.
With that out of the way, now I can go back to the beginning and talk about the restaurant. I don't usually get excited about chain restaurants, but there are exceptions. A new P.F. Chang's China Bistro opened a couple weeks ago at the Northshore Mall in Peabody. P.F. Chang's is very popular and it can often be a wait for a table at the Boston location. I was excited to try out the new location, to see how it would compare to Boston, so I went there for lunch.
As you enter the parking lot and approach the restaurant, you see the familar eleven foot high horses at the entrance. The inside of the restaurant is tastefully decorated and actually presents a rather elegant look. It is a medium sized restaurant with a long bar at the back of the room. Above the bar is a large, lengthy mural of a scene from 12th century China, an impressive and striking mural. The lighting was muted with candles on the tables, even for lunch. The restaurant presents a pleasant ambiance.
As we had arrived early, the restaurant was nearly empty. Though by the time we left, the restaurant was packed and there was quite a line of people waiting for a table. It seems this P.F. Chang's location may become as popular as the Boston one.
The menu is quite diverse, with plenty of familar dishes as well as some of their own creative dishes. Prices are reasonable, nearly all entrees costing under $15. In a comparison, many of their prices are comparable to what you find at the Kowloon Restaurant. I was expecting their prices to be higher but they apparently are trying to make it affordable for everyone. The entire menu is available at lunch.
We began our lunch with one of their signature appetizers, Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($8). You receive a plate with a mixture of chicken, Shitake mushrooms and water chestnuts, all finely chopped and diced that has been largely cooked in a wok. This was very flavorful, with a bit of crunch from the water chestnuts. You also receive a few large pieces of lettuce, very fresh and crisp, which you use almost like a soft taco shell. I have had lettuce wraps elsewhere, and these were some of the freshest I have ever had. There was enough of the chicken mixture to fill four lettuce wraps. As these were delicious, I understand why they are so popular and I would recommend them.
For lunch, they have a number of special bowls you can order. You basically get some type of meat, poultry or seafood atop a bowl of rice, white or brown. Plus you have a choice of egg drop or hot and sour soup. We both chose the egg drop soup which had a slightly thick broth, with pieces of egg, thin slivers of carrot and scallions. It was hot and tasty.
The Pepper Steak Bowl ($8.50) has pieces of steak with red and green bell peppers, yellow onion, garlic and black pepper. The steak was thin sliced and relatively tender and the pepper sauce was spicy and delicious. It made a great sauce for the white rice. The Crispy Honey Chicken Bowl ($7.50) had pieces of lightly battered chicken in a sweet sauce that was not overpowering. I very much enjoyed the chicken, which is better than similar General Gao dishes at other restaurants. These bowls make for a nice lunch and it seems they are made to order.
Service was excellent and our server, Jarrett, was very personable and attentive. He seemed very genuine and a strong advocate for the restaurant. I have seen plenty of servers elsewhere who recite the company word without any conviction but Jarrett seemed a true fan of the food.
I will definitely return here for both lunch and dinner, to try other dishes, and highly recommend it to my readers. The food tastes very good, the prices are reasonable and service is excellent. But I also recommend that you make reservations, especially for dinner as this is going to remain a popular place for some time to come.
And make sure you try the Banana Spring Rolls! I am going to be thinking about those for quite some time.
P.F. Chang's China Bistro
210 Andover Street