As a general rule we are not fans of chain restaurants. However, there are a couple of exceptions – notably Roy’s Hawaiin Fusion (which we recently visited) and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro.
Recently we were pleased to note that a Pei Wei Asian Diner was opening up the street from us. Pei Wei is actually owned by P.F. Chang’s, so we were quite excited to see this. And, we did not realize that they were related until we started doing a little bit of research.
Assuming, like with any new restaurant, they would need a couple of weeks to get things ironed out in the kitchen we held off visiting until today. But, needing some chow and not wanting to venture too far from home we decided to get it a shot.
First, you can definitely tell that this is a subset of P.F. Chang’s. The decor, ambience and even portions of the menu scream out at you. But there are definitely some differences between the two. Pei Wei is intended to be a lighter, faster style — almost like Asian fast food. It was definitely faster than P.F. Chang’s would be, but still not super quick. I will talk about the food in a minute.
When you first walk in, you place your order and get a number – very similar to a lot of delis. Once this is done, you get your own drinks (nothing alcoholic; not sure how that works but we did see bottle of wine) and, in our case anyway, the floor manager pointed out a two-top for us. After a wait of about 10-12 minutes our appetizers came out. And about 15 minutes after that, my entree came up followed a couple of minutes later by Allison’s. Definitely not speedy, but it was lunch time on a Sunday with a lot of folks just out of church so that may account for some of the delay – the place was at its full capacity of 105.
Now for the food. P.F. Chang’s focuses on Chinese food, albeit at a much higher quality than your typical Chinese restaurant and does it very well. Pei Wei on the other hand tries to integrate a range of Asian cuisines, including Chinese, Japanese and Thai into one menu. It just doesn’t work. Sort of like all of this fusion of suhsi bars into other Asian restuarants (particularly Thai)… it is just wrong. But I digress…
For starters we had an order of spring rolls and the lettuce wraps. These were lifted directly from the P.F. Chang’s menu. And very, very good here as well.
For entrees I went with Mongolian Shrimp which had white mushrooms, shrimp, scallions and a brown sauce over rice. Not bad, but definitely not great. This reminded me of mediocre Chinese take out. Allison went with Thai Coconut Curry with Chicken. This was a fusion of long beans, basil, ginger, red bell pepper, onion in a green curry infused coconut milk sauce. She actually thought it was pretty good, and brought her left overs home for lunch tomorrow.
If you’ve ever been to a P.F. Chang’s you know how loud it can be in there. Now take that, and multiply by a factor of two. We could barely hear each other when we talked. The kitchen is literally right there, and they must have had 12 or 14 cooks on the line whipping out dishes like crazy. Add to that 105 people sitting literally inches from one another and another 10 or 12 wait staff running around and you get some idea of why the noise factor is out there.
The bottom line is that the food was decent, but not great. I would put this in the same category as an Applebees or Chili’s, and the food is definitely a step up from that. However, the ambience, particularly the noise, was a big detractor for us.