A short minute ago, we heard that P.F. Chang's was coming to Shanghai, wanting to be an American bistro in China. There was some anxiety/confusion over that. There are no fries or burgers on the menu. There are lettuce wraps, orange chicken, and Mongolian beef. Breath easy. Boy is it American, though!
It takes up a very nice-looking corner of the 8th floor at 800 Nanjing Dong Lu, in a food court run entirely by HMSHost, a massive food-service company that normally operates restaurants in airports. Since September, they've opened 9 restaurants (!!) in Shanghai outside airports, and six of them are on this floor. The Dining Room, Sushi Groove, Mango Chili, Jones The Grocer, Crystal Jade and the peace duh resitanss, P.F. Chang's.
I'd never eaten at P.F. Chang's before yesterday. I'd never even heard of it. It's a chain? From America. Reactions among friends ranged from ambivalence to icy contempt to incandescent fury to an intense, misty-eyed nostalgia. Sounds like an American chain restaurant all right!
So! Food. How's the food? Here're pictures of the food;
The Original Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps (48rmb) - photo courtesy of P.F. Chang's
Pork Jiacama Tacos (68rmb), think spring rolls that haven't been wrapped shut
Some classics that'll be familiar to fans of the chain around the world (I'm told, first time diner here), such as the Kung Pao Chicken (58rmb) and yeah, the Lettuce Wraps, and a couple of dishes that're unique to Shanghai (again, I'm told), such as the Honey Chicken and Scallion Pancake (68rmb), Duck Spring Rolls (48rmb) and Deviled Bangmu Tea Eggs (28rmb).
Mongolian Beef (108rmb)
Dusk Till Dawn Honey Chicken and Scallion Pancake (68rmb)
They say they're "coming home" to Shanghai (the co-founder's mother, Cecilia Chiang, is originally from this neck of the woods), but this is definitely American-Chinese comfort food with 'American' first. It's drenched in flavor. Just a sea of bold, familiar flavors, buffeting you as you flounder towards dry land and the bill. The Mongolian beef is cut thick. The Lettuce Wraps have two dominant characteristics: lettuce, and Chinese greasy spoon diner. The Honey Chicken on a Pancake could kill a nursery full of diabetics.
I dig it. Yeah, you know what, the more I think about it, the more I dig it. I'm one of those people who has fond memories of Fortune Cookie. There's a place for American-Chinese comfort food in Shanghai's busy dining schedule (I swear), and about two slots annually in my life. Prices... lettuce wraps for 48rmb is okay. Acceptable. 108rmb for the Mongolian beef rankles a bit. 108rmb for beef with green onions, in China. Over here, I can get that for like 20rmb. It'll be wafer thin and off a cutting board with enough biomass to attain sentience, but still.
So yeah. P.F. Chang's. They have lettuce wraps!
P.F. Chang's official opening is TBC, but it should be open to the public sometime around this weekend.