P. F. Chang’s: Dynamite or Disappointment?
Lahore has always been a city that loves its food and culture, and really thrives on making it accessible in a myriad of ways to any traveler. The latest addition to the Lahore foodie scene is the international Cantonese chain P. F. Chang’s, which opened its doors in Gulberg to the many lovers of Chinese and oriental food across this city.
We arrived at the eatery around 9:45 PM on a rainy Lahore night – rainy and cold I should say since Lahore rain is usually accompanied by a biting wind which makes one run for the indoors as fast as possible. The first thing that greets you upon arrival is the two giant white horse statues at the front doors. I don’t know what horses have to do with Chinese or Cantonese mythology, but I think dragons or something that represents the culture would have been far more adequate. Anyways! We entered and were immediately greeted by a very efficient and well-trained floor manager who had us seated with a server ready to order in less than 5 minutes.
We started off by ordering a variety of starters. I opted for the hot and sour chicken soup, which I am quite happy to report had just the right amount of spice I was expecting and not that nostril clearing spice which can often become overpowering. Add to that a delicious set of chicken dumplings (we opted for non boiled as I like them a little crispy) and we were all set to begin our meal. Our mains consisted of the famous Changs Chicken, which was incidentally the first dish they have had on their menu since they opened their doors to the world, along with the Pepper Steak, Kung Pao Chicken, and of course the Dynamite Prawns! Yeah, I know we went a little crazy with ordering, but any lover of Chinese food can understand that three hungry patrons ordering will always end up with food to spare.
Obviously, since P. F. Chang’s is an international chain and claims of having the same taste for its customers’ pallets wherever one goes, you can’t help but compare it to the standards it has set abroad. The signature Changs Chicken was quite good, as it had the required balance of sweet and spicy flavors and was neither too crispy nor too soft for ones liking. The Pepper Beef, however, seemed more like minced up salan then proper dry beef, giving it a desi touch that didn’t seem to hit. The Dynamite Prawns are something Changs is infamously known for, but they, unfortunately, tasted more like damp squibs rather than the tongue popping flavor they usually have in other venues across the world. This, I have to admit, was disappointing. Meanwhile, the Kung Pao Chicken was adequate and flavorful and met the standards expected. However, I do have a problem with the rice served – as the kitchen seemed to have added too much water during preparations and thus took “sticky” rice to a whole new level… (Please understand sticky does not mean clumps one cannot break with a fork or spoon easily!)
So, that was my sampling of Lahore’s P.F Changs – where out of the 7 things consumed, only 4 turned out to meet our expectations while 3 dishes, including one signature dish, completely failed to meet standards. I really think the restaurant needs to work a harder on keeping at par to their international branches. Of course, any new eatery has it’s a teething period, but since the name is recognizable on a global scale, the Lahore branch needs to take it up a notch to become must-try spot around town.
Overall, I would give it a 6/10!
(PS. Those horses still really just don’t make sense to me…)