To have flavor that explodes in the mouth; to have textures that activate all gastronomical senses. The succulence of salty chicken complemented by the unique crunch of water chestnuts, the silkiness of tender beef accompanied by the greenest of fresh scallions; the best food experiences are about unleashing flavours and textures on the senses and that’s the kind of treat you’re in for when you decide to dine at P.F. Chang. Many of us have experienced P.F. Chang’s in America, Dubai or even Lahore (if not in the restaurant’s other global locations) but it’s now opening in Karachi this week so chalk it in as a new must-go eatery in town!
We were lucky to get invited to a media tasting this weekend and the tasting menu, created with a diverse range off the menu, gave us a good idea of what we’d love and what we’d want to avoid on the complete menu.
Our starters began with Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps, which we were told were originally a P.F. Chang’s invention adapted by other restaurants all over the world. The well-seasoned chicken mince was lifted so gloriously by the crunch of water chestnuts, one of my favourite ingredients in pan-Asian cuisine. The spice level was thankfully low, and three spice-range sauces were offered as condiments for those looking for a fierier experience. The starters also included classic Dynamite Shrimp, not my favourite dish as it’s too saucy for my personal liking, Salt and Pepper Calamari – always a table favourite – and steamed Chicken Dumplings for those wanting to avoid fried food.
The selection of starters was quite wholesome and filling on its own and to be honest, had we eaten everything brought to our tables, we would not have managed to make it to the main course.
A crispy, Crazy Sushi Roll was tucked into the menu and it was divine in terms of freshness and flavour. It was quite a visual delight too, flaunting a crispy cap of crunch topped off with a dot of crimson caviar. At this point we were left wishing we could have spaced this tasting over a couple of meals.
That didn’t stop us though and we soldiered on, into the main course.
P.F. Chang’s is about authentic, traditional Pan Asian food developed with a contemporary twist and next on the menu was the signature Spicy Chicken, a symphony of spicy, sweet and tangy flavours. I could only pick one morsel because I had to save space for the Mongolian Beef (another signature) and at the end, dessert, without which no meal is complete. The beef, I have to say, was a bit too salty for my comfort level and the chicken was comforting but not too exciting. The kind people at P.F. Chang’s had also slipped in a noodle dish with velvety prawns coated with a glamorous black bean sauce and hot chili pods; that was a winner.
It felt like we had traveled through land, sea and sky with flavours of the Pacific belt – salt, sweet and sour – on our plate. It was an explosion.
But it wasn’t over.
Saving the best for last, the dessert was served in the form of an overwhelming Great Wall of Chocolate, created in-house. With its dark chocolate sponge, milk chocolate frosting and chocolate chip exterior complemented by a raspberry coulis and seasonal strawberries, this was the perfect end to the meal.
P.F. Chang’s will, no doubt be a welcome addition to Karachi’s dining culture, but it will face a challenge from local competition like Chop Chop Wok, for example, a similar and cheaper option. It’s understandable that imported ingredients would elevate the price but then again, it depends whether the restaurant can offer a higher quality dining experience with those ingredients. We’ll definitely be visiting again to see how the food fares on an average day.