“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.
Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul.
If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.
And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it.
In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said:
“It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”
~ Jim Jarmusch
American Film Director
I discovered that pithy pearl shortly after a recent email exchange with Gil’s thrilling pollmeister (my spellchecker still insists on “poltergeist”) Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos. We were deliberating whether to ask if you believe New Mexico’s talented chefs “invent” new dishes or if the cuisine found across the Land of Enchantment is primarily dishes that have been copied from recipes by chefs in other cities. Rather than declaring “nothing is original” as the only possible answer to the proposed poll question, Jim Jarmusch’s sapient quote prompted even more questions such as: Is adding red or green chile to a non-New Mexican recipe inventing something original? Isn’t any variation to an existing recipe actually making it an original recipe? Does it matter?
“Does it matter?” It’s a question my Kim asks when I whine and complain at her suggestion that we give P.F. Chang’s China Bistro another shot. My retort is typically something along the line of “but it’s so Americanized” or “it’s not real Chinese food” and of course “but it’s a chain” and most often “but the P.F. in P.F. Chang’s stands for “Paul Fleming,” the American restaurant impresario who co-founded the Asian-themed casual dining restaurant chain in 1993. She reminds me (and rightfully so) that we both used to like P.F. Chang’s back in the mid-1990s before I became so narrow-minded (she doesn’t buy my claims of being enlightened) about food. Further, she argues “if it’s not “real” Chinese food, it must be original.” Aaargh! She got me again!
In a thinly-veiled attempt at saving face, I agreed to take her to P.F. Chang’s but only to prove how inauthentic and unoriginal it is (as if I’m really an expert on the 2,000-year-old tradition of wok cooking in China). In truth, P.F. Chang’s roots are deeply and authentically Chinese with an impeccable and unimpeachable culinary pedigree that includes Cecilia Chiang. Often called “the Julia Child of Chinese cooking,” Cecilia essentially introduced authentic upscale wok-centric Northern Chinese cuisine to America at her legendary San Francisco restaurant The Mandarin. Her son and culinary disciple Phillip is one of P.F. Chang’s founding partners (the “Chang” in P.F. Chang’s).
P.F. Chang’s “farm to wok” approach is a novel idea. Every one of the more than 200 P.F. Chang’s restaurants across the fruited plain has a scratch kitchen where chefs prepare fresh food daily. They chop vegetables, hand-roll sushi, hand-fold dim sum, juice fresh ginger root for the housemade ginger beer and create sauces from scratch. (You might be surprised at just how many Chinese restaurants uses out-of-a-bag sauces purchased from food distributors.) The wok cooking favored by the restaurant generates an intense flame which accounts for the smoky, caramelized flavors and crispy textures enjoyed in Northern China. Chefs use all-natural meat, responsibly sourced seafood, and local produce whenever possible–and here’s one you may not have known: The New York Times credits P.F. Chang’s with being the first national restaurant to use Sriracha. Today, its restaurants use nearly 100,000 bottles of Sriracha per year.
As if welcoming us back home after a twenty year hiatus, a special seasonal menu featured two of my very favorite food items any time of year: curry and butternut squash. For me, there was no reason to peruse the main menu any further. Hand-folded butternut squash dumplings (a savory squash filling and umami butter sauce topped with Thai basil and Fresno peppers) made good use of the butternut squash which is meant to be savory, not made to taste like pumpkin pie filling. The rich umami butter sauce was “lick the plate” worthy while the aromatic, fresh basil and the sprightly piquancy of the Fresno peppers imparted contrasting, yet complementary flavors.
For my Kim who’s been on a sushi quest of late, P.F. Chang’s six item sushi menu made it easy to decide which sushi roll we would have. When presented with compendium-like sushi menus, we typically can’t decide which select few to have and end up ordering too much. A good choice was the Kung Pao dragon roll (California roll topped with seared Ahi, Sriracha, tempura crunch and peanuts). Peanuts aren’t something you see that often on sushi, but along with the tempura crunch, they provide a nice textural contrast to the vinegared rice and pleasantly pink Ahi. Go sparingly on the soy-wasabi mix. There’s plenty enough flavor on the sushi roll.
Aptly named, the Harvest Curry (red curry, butternut squash, five-rice tofu, rustic vegetables and Asian mushrooms topped with Fresno peppers) would give the red curry at many a Thai restaurant a run for its money. Red curry teases your taste buds with more savory flavors than green curry or massaman curry, but the coconut milk gives it a nice balance. It’s the curry for those of us who don’t want a savory entree to taste like dessert. The so-called rustic vegetables include such upscale paragons of freshness as cherry tomatoes and red peppers. Then there’s the butternut squash, a sweet-savory blend which seems to bring out the invigorating qualities of aromatic basil and earthy mushrooms.
For my carnivorous queen, the wok-fried filet Mignon (sliced eight-ounce filet, black pepper butter sauce, rustic potatoes, onion and lime-garlic vinaigrette) beckoned. Born and bred in the City of Big Shoulders (and big pork chops, steaks and ribs), she’s a meat and potatoes aficionado. Maybe if all steaks were wok-fried at intense heat, her husband might become a convert to the joys of the carnivorous persuasion. The light caramelization on each meaty morsel and the tender, rich smokiness made this skeptic a believer. Kim didn’t like the rustic potatoes, but they didn’t go to waste. They fit well with the rustic vegetables in the Harvest Curry.
To say Chinese desserts haven’t occupied much of a place in the world culinary stage is a vast understatement. Save for the few dessert items you’ll find at Ming Dynasty‘s amazing dim sum menu, we’re hard-pressed to name any. So, you could hardly blame P.F. Chang’s for offering “Asian inspired” American desserts then christening them with Asian themed names. The largest is the aptly named Great Wall of Chocolate. It’s been rumored that astronauts can see this humongous dessert from the space station. Picture a multi-layered slab of chocolate upon chocolate armored with chocolate chips. Six layers of chocolate ganache divide this chocoholic’s dream. Too much of a good thing? Maybe not, but it’s got a week’s worth of sinfully indulgent calories.
So there you have it! 2017 probably won’t be remembered as the year in which you read reviews of two national chain restaurants on Gil’s Thrilling…, but if you want a memorable Chinese dining experience, this over-the-top franchise will give you one.
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
4440 The 25th Way, N.E.
Albuquerque New Mexico
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 9 December 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Harvest Curry, Butternut Squash Dumplings, The Great Wall of Chocolate, Wok-Fried Filet Mignon, Kung Pao Dragon Roll
RESTAURANT REVIEW #1010
8 thoughts on “P.F. Chang’s China Bistro – Albuquerque, New Mexico”
PF Chang’s is the PERFECT example of how everything in NM sucks!!!
The service isn’t not up to par, like it is in Arizona or Vegas.
The entrees are not compliant with corporate policies as they always leave something out.
The food is usually soggy and chewy, especially if you order take-out or delivery. And their corporate customer service sucks terribly, probably due to the new ownership group.
DON’T SOLICIT THIS CHAIN, AT LEAST IN ALBUQUERQUE!!!
Alas Peter, that is sad to read per my experience…Whoa! now going on 7 years ago…when I went on strike per no response by PF Chang’s to several requests RE what was the rationale for discontinuing Sweet n Sour Pork, albeit many Chinese menus were doing the same. Reminded me of the tales in grammar school of the horrors of “Tape Worms” related to undercooked pork, e.g. https://www.medicinenet.com/trichinosis/article.htm Why a teacher would bring this up in grammar school is beyond me…LOL!
Bob, I suspect that the classic Cantonese version of sweet and sour pork might have started disappearing from come Chinese menus coincident with the rise in popularity of the spicier Sichuan cooking. I did find a reference noting that Panda Express removed pork from their menu because it’s costly compared to chicken. Apparently, the popularity of pork in Chinese cooking has no bearing on what American chains decide to offer but I’m no expert – I don’t eat at them.
Anyway, the preparation of sweet and sour pork calls for the pork itself to be cooked until crispy over very high heat, virtually eliminating the possibility of undercooked meat. However, we no longer have to follow our mothers guide to cooking pork until it was as dry as sawdust. The USDA recommends pork be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees plus a three-minute rest time; this is defined as “medium” (and which can result in slightly pink meat).
As a further note, per askthemeatman.com, “Trichinosis is not common in the US anymore, mostly due to changes in the methods of feeding of pigs over the last 30 years. (They don’t feed them the raw intestines from slaughtered hogs ground up with their feed like they used to do – this was the main avenue of contamination on hog farms).” There may be other factors at play as well – including some concerns about “designer hogs” that can all be researched on the Internet.
Oh my! did you break the anti-chain?!
(O my! Oh MY!
Last week I had
in my eye
A Stye….Oh my…..that was Dx’ed by a Dr. (but alas) Cha i ng!
(Thank goodness, heated compressing resolved it vs one a
couple of years ago that a PA(!!!) deftly slit and cleaned!
But no one…oopsy, wants to hear that!)
But lest I ramble…LOL My first PF’s was in Vegas circa ’95 when it had the “Moon Chandelier’s”! Returned to them when they built here; maybe once a month or two: a Happy Hour MaiTai; a cup of Hot n Sour Soup (Caveat!!!! a bowl is 9,590mg Sodium!!!! a cup, 1,440); an order of Sweet & Sour Pork/brown rice. Eh! The SSP is a carryover from my childhood. PF’s were cut into the most appropriate, small size and tasty, with adequate veggies/pineapple, while the sauce was not overly sweet. Two or so years ago they discontinued the SSP and requests to Corporate as to “Why?” were never answered. As such, I discontinued my patronage and alas, warning them had no effect…LOL
Alas, my boycott is difficult as the ambiance and service were always great and in the past they painted the horses out front “Pink” as part of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month. It was also an affordable place for family gatherings.
Alas and Kudos: In his opening paragraphs, Gil brought up some Foodie concerns that vex me: Are we behind the times in NM when it comes to advances in cookery/chefdom that are occurring elsewhere? Altho separate, is it enough to rely on putting Red or Green on anything to make it New Mexican and particularly for drawing tourist dollars? In my comment RE Christmas at Indigo Crow, I hinted at how their Cook has, without being ostentatious, made, lest I be naive, a “new” interesting sauce for the Filet that incorporates Green and how the oil for the bread clumps are equally devised.
Yo, don’t get me wrong. “Old” or “Traditional” recipes can be superb, e.g. King Henry IV at Antiquity!
Ya know, while I ain’t normally into dessert, that Great Wall of Chocolate is tempting and a reminder of the devilish triple chocolate delight (and never since found) that was served in SF wharf’s Cannery in former Charlie Brown’s on the the 2nd/3rd floor overlooking the Bay.
I try hard. I really do. But I can’t understand most of what you wrote even after reading it over. For those of us who aren’t well-versed in modern-speak, can you translate?
BOTVOLR is Modern???????
To me….Vanessa has always been an alluring/mysterious name… akin to Maureen (rich, deep dark maroon velvet/velour!) Anyway, my apologies that my writings are enigmatic! Actually, this “problema” came up a few years ago…LOL… where/when I learned I apparently had an unintentional flair for the literary style know as Stream of Consciousness (SofC), perhaps akin to, if you’d be so kind to take a moment, more well known Folks than I, like these: http://tinyurl.com/gs23x3v
What is/was particularly striking to me is finding Jack Kerouac! Yo! we be both from the same birthtown! Maybe it was something in the water!? Alas, except for a friend sending me Jack’s first work, The Town and the City, I found it hard to ever get into reading his works…LOL. Alas, and I don’t know, but maybe my version of SofC might suffer from my having a slight tad of dyslexia along with my playing the Age Card!
Alas and given your “request”:
Gil often starts a review with a quote of some sort of prose/whatever. Hopefully as seen as an homage/being in-sync, I tried to possibly emulate Dr. Seuss (tho I could never get “into” him either”). The connectivity if you will, was per Gil’s review of PF Chang’s and my ophthalmologist of-the-day recently, being a Dr.
Cha i ng! (PS, I think the compressing has worked. While he didn’t give me any Oriental Medicine tips, I did explore adding a bit of apple cider vinegar per a notation on the internet!)
The “Best lest…” paragraph: pretty straight forward I think re a quick history of “my” history with Chang’s as well as why I went there and what I had most of the time, given what I was exposed to as a kid for a couple of years per a couple of Sunday’s a month of Take-out from a new Chinese place opening in my birthtown, i.e. those 2-3 inch red lacquered looking Babyback, BBQed ribs from the Appetizer menu, Chop Suey with noodles as a side for the “entree” of Sweet n Sour Pork!
“Alas my boycott…” Just shows some ambivalence I have in being steadfast till they bring SnS back.
“Alas and Kudos…” Just a reiteration of putting out there…for my possible selfish bemusement LOL….where do Folks on the Blog think we be at dining wise in ABQ!??? Just trying to engender/stimulate some conversation which, if any restaurateurs are reading, might benefit their competitive edge…as it seems a tough world out there. IMHO, I’m thinking we be falling behind!
Finally RE the “Ya know…” paragraph: Hopefully each of us are “built”…”wired” as youth might say…. to enjoy at least something as we go, sometimes trudge, through life. E.g. some Folks can get “into” Music, but alas they cannot “see/feel” the beauty in abstract art. I enjoy a good meal despite not having the lingual(?) skill many herein possess to pick out a “extra” grain of salt in a meal. Wait! Lo that I don’t taste it, but some freak out with Cumin….LOL I’m sure you’d agree, we can do that with all The Senses!
And so…here we are at: Herein, I try to write as an ‘everyday’ Folk and not someone who has had the good fortune of having had two articles published in two different, “scientific, peer reviewed, professional” journals…as perplexedly as that might be! Oh my, doesn’t speak well of such “Editors”….LOL. My Opt, is to continue as I do per intending no offense to anyone as everyone has the Opt, equally, to not read my blatherings!
Nice to see you read my blathering. Alas, I do not recall ever seeing you write a Comment! Hopefully this is your first venture and “we” will read and benefit from Your writing/sharing about your dining experiences as Gil cautions that his is but one moment in time!
Feliz Navidad to All!
A chain?!?! Really?!?!? 🙂 😉
Haha, just kidding. I remember back in the day liking P.F. Changs. Honestly, though, I haven’t been for several years. What turned me off was the Kung Pao Chicken. Easily the worst version of it I have ever tried (wait, maybe second worst…Jinja being the worst…though I think it was bad chicken and I thought it may have been the sauce…but lest I ramble like BOTOLR… 🙂 )
I remember liking the lettuce wraps and honey chicken dishes. We tend to go to Pei Wei (P.F.’s sister restaurant) for a quick meal rather than deal with P.F. Chang’s crowds (not sure if the crowds are still bad, though).
I think we will have to give P.F.’s another go…I mean if it’s good enough for Gil to go to a chain, it must be good right? 🙂