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The Low Carb Connoisseur


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Restaurant Reviews
Back to Main Restaurant Reviews Menu                                         


P.F. Chang's China Bistro                      

Delicious cuisine with a unique difference...                  

P.F. Chang's China Bistro We first discovered P.F. Chang's China Bistro about a year and a half ago, while driving through a new shopping development in search of luggage. We realized we were quite hungry, and the large (well, massive really) stone horses that stand guard at the door to this unique restaurant grabbed our attention. It was a chance finding we've never regretted.

The particular location we dined at that day, (as well as many, many times since) was their Cincinnati area store located at 2633 Edmondson Road (in the Rookwood Commons Shopping Center) in Norwood, Ohio. Though we've since eaten at locations in Charlotte, North Carolina, Troy, Michigan, Columbus, Ohio, and Los Angeles, California. We still find the Norwood (Cincinnati) restaurant to be the best, and some comments are specific to that location.

If you come here looking for standard Chinese fare, you'll be out of luck, but not necessarily disappointed, as what you find is in many ways much better. P.F. Chang's is definitely in a league of its own, offering an elegant menu with an Asian theme tempered by American hospitality served in a sophisticated, contemporary bistro setting.

A little history ...

P.F. Chang's was co-founded in 1993 by Paul Fleming (the P.F. part of the name), and Philip Chang. Their first location opened its doors in Scottsdale, Arizona. Paul Fleming, who also started several other successful restaurant chains, was looking for elegance and innovation. Philip Chang, known for his fiery stir-fried spicy chicken, executed the cuisine. To this day, Chang continues to serve as "Chinese Cuisine Consultant" for the restaurants.

Much of the chain's success seems to now be credited to CEO Rick Federico. Federico has worked 19 years in the restaurant business. He was also co-founder and V.P. of Grady's Goodtimes restaurants until bought out by Brinker Int'l (owners of Macaroni Grill, Chili's, On the Border.)

On Friday evenings, a good portion of Saturday, and Sunday afternoons, you can often expect a long wait to be seated. I've seen waits as long as two hours, though most often it's around 15 to 30 minutes. The very fact that these waits exist is a testament to their delicious food.

The Food...

P.F. Chang's China Bistro It seems wrong to even begin to discuss the food without starting with Chang's Chicken in Soothing Lettuce Wraps (stir fried chicken, water chestnuts, green onions, garlic and a faintly sweet spicy sauce served with crisp, cool lettuce "bowls".) It's become their signature dish, and with good reason. It's uniquely delicious. It's crisp, and soft at the same time; spicy, and cool at the same time. This dish is large enough for two people to share, but let's just say you might hesitate to let go of even a bite.

To keep them low carb, please remember to ask them to serve them without the rice "noodles" they place the chicken mix on. Their website nutrition counter lists the carb count on the lettuce wraps as extremely high, but that's because they include the rice noodles in the count.

Also be aware they use a small amount of sugar in the sauce, but it really is quite small, and doesn't add an inordinate amount to the carb count. Without the noodles, the dish comes in at a total of 16 NET carbs (after fiber reduction), but since this appetizer serves 2, that means 8 net carbs per serving. Not bad at all.

Another favorite for us in their appetizer category is their Northern-Style Spare Ribs. Unlike the Chang's Spare Ribs, these are not dripping with barbeque sauce, but rather are seared to tender extremely juicy perfection in a wok, and served with 5-Spice salt. An appetizer plate generally yields 6 to 8 ribs (depending on size of the ribs.)

As for entrées, my personal favorite is a variant of their Moo Goo Gai Pan. I ask them to add celery (since it's crisply exceptional), leave out the snow peas (because I'm not a fan), and to bring it with a small bowl of toasted almonds on the side. Unlike standard "Chinese place Moo Goo Gai Pan," P.F. Chang's is a splendid mix of large tender shrimp along with the usual wok browned chicken breast slices. The sauce is light in color and texture, but deeply flavorful. It's why I order the almonds on the side (try it sometime!) The almonds compliment that sauce to a tee, and the addition of celery gives the dish a welcome crunch. I've been known to order a second dinner to go, and have it again at home the following night. Like other many other items in their nutritional guide, their carb count includes the rice, and does NOT reduce for fiber. To keep this dish at bare minimum carb-wise, they will prepare the sauce with no (or minimal) cornstarch. It's pretty thin anyway, and I've never had a problem with having it prepared as-is.

All entrées come with a choice of brown or white rice. One of my friends always orders the brown, and tells me it has a faintly nutty taste that he really appreciates. As low-carbers, of course we skip the rice on all dishes here.

Then there's the Kung Pao Chicken. It's very tender chicken that's been quick-fired with chili peppers and scallions, and then made crunchy with the traditional addition of peanuts.

Friends also love their Lemon Chicken (they call it "Philip's Better Lemon Chicken") and it's a tart citrus sauce, rather than the candy-sweet stuff found in other Chinese dining. The dish is served with broccoli. This is NOT a low carb dish. No matter what, it's good enough to recommend to your non-low-carbing friends.

The Orange Peel Shrimp is another must-try dish, made with hot chilis and fresh orange peel.

Our Cincinnati location has no problem with altering the dishes to suit your tastes, dietary needs, or even whims.

Ambience...

While a chain restaurant, you'd be hard pressed to know or guess that unless you'd been told. It's a warm, comfortable setting accented with hand-painted murals, Ming dynasty style art pieces, and low lighting. It achieves a practically glamorous dining setting, and when not overly crowded, can be downright mysteriously romantic.

The entire restaurant is meticulously clean, adding to the comfort level. In fact, the kitchen cooking area is visibly open at the back of the restaurant, behind the bar.

P.F. Chang's China Bistro is a Hot Concept award winner, as well as snagging a Best Chinese Restaurant Award. And it's easy to see why. It's a place like no other.

Service...

Honestly, service can be hit and miss here. I've had wonderful service, I've had slow service, I've had friendly but inefficient service. My recommendation is that when you find an outstanding waiter here, don't be shy about letting him know you'd like him/her to serve you in the future. They will be flattered and pleased to share their usual work days with you. Then come in on those days and request that server by name.

We've never seen any wait staff at any location who was Asian. Every single one has been quite American/European.

Pricing...

For the elegance and quality of the food served here, the prices are quite reasonable... low even, with most entrées running between $7 and $13. All major credit cards are accepted.

                  Written by Lora Ruffner for Low Carb Luxury
                  Visit the P.F. Chang's website to learn more or find a location.

                  P.F. Chang's China Bistro of Norwood, Ohio is located at:

                          Rookwood Commons
                          2633 Edmondson Road
                          Norwood, Ohio 45209




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