Restaurant Reviews --> P.F. Chang's China Bistro
P.F. Chang's China Bistro
Life's too short for bad Chinese
Is just one "good" upscale Asian restaurant too much to ask?
Last August, I invoked this quote to justify our less than flattering review of the now departed Villa on Delaware restaurant. "Sans la liberté de blamer, il n'est point d'éloge flatteur." It is a quote from the French author, Beaumarchais, that wine critic Robert Parker loosely translates as "The joy of giving praise is meaningless without the freedom to criticize." (My French never went much beyond "parlez vous Visa," so we'll have to take Robert's word for it.) Although we still try to base our reviews on the principle "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," a quote from everybody's Mom, sometimes you just have to remember old Beaumarchais and decide that you are performing a public service. Here are two reviews; one is a public service announcement and the other an enthusiastic suggestion.
P.F. Chang's China Bistro Circle Center Mall
I am a huge fan of good Chinese food, a commodity in very short supply here in Indianapolis, so I was very excited when I heard that P.F. Chang's was coming to town. We tried them on a Sunday afternoon soon after they opened and we were disappointed with both the food and the service, but decided we should give them another chance before passing judgment. So, last weekend while we were downtown to see the Ansel Adams exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum, we gave them the second try. And, we were again disappointed that someone could pay so much attention to the package, but neglect the product.
They have created a very elegant atmosphere dominated by a beautiful mural copied from a 12th century screen painting and huge reproductions of sculptures from the T'ang Dynasty. A large bistro-style bar and open kitchen complete the melding of Chinese and French elements and leave you expecting a unique, upscale oriental dining experience. Unfortunately what you get are more greasy egg rolls.
On our first visit, I was immediately impressed by the well-chosen and priced wine list and the sheer number of wines available by the glass. My interest gave way to concern when our server told us the "she didn't know much about wine, but she was sure we could buy a lot of Boones Farm for what we were paying for those glasses of Caymus Conundrum." Our well-intentioned, but somewhat unsophisticated server, also seemed to possess very little knowledge of the menu, but did manage to get the right food to the table and say thank you. We began with the hot and sour soup, which was unfortunately neither. The almost gravy-like beef broth posessed no discernable white pepper spice or vinegar bite, and the customary bits of pork or shrimp had been replaced with chicken. The mu shu pork was well-prepared in an acceptable "Strip Center Chinese" fashion but was seved with hosin sauce rather than the traditional plum sauce. Our second dish was equally undistinguished, but the wine was excellent, despite my fear that with so many open bottles, we might order the one that had been open for a week.
On our second visit the server was also able to bring the right food and say thank you. Unfortuately his ratty athletic shoes and ungroomed beard and hair led us to speculate that perhaps he had spent the night on a sidewalk heating vent somewhere on South Illinois Street - we didn't ask his opinions on the menu. The food was again as disappointing as the service. The spring rolls were heavy with oil and the hot mustard was tepid. My Malaysian chicken was served swimming in a curry sauce that was so mild it could be on the menu at Miller's Merry Manor. Linda's double pan-fried noodles with shrimp were served in what appeared to be a beef gravy (it could have been the hot sour soup) that masked the large amount of residual oil in the dish. Again, the wine was the only redeeming quality. The glasses of Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Dry Reisling were excellent. Our thoughts on the afternoon... The Ansel Adams exhibit is breathtaking, a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, don't miss it! And, if you go, stop in Broad Ripple at the Thai Cafe (the Bonny Doon is much cheaper on their wine list) and eat good Thai food before you head downtown.
Circle Centre Mall
49 W Maryland St. Suite 226
Indianapolis, IN 46204
February 28, 2001