Monday, January 9, 2017

PF Chang's China Bistro in Sarasota: Asian Fusion

With over 230 restaurants around the world, P.F. Chang's is the largest full service, casual dining Chinese restaurant chain in the United States. Founded in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1993 by Paul Fleming, the restaurants serve American Chinese cuisine from a menu originally conceived and planned by chef Philip Chiang. Interestingly, P. F. Chang's is the namesake of Paul Fleming (P.F.) and Philip Chiang, whose surname was simplified to Chang. Born in Shanghai, Chiang grew up in Tokyo before relocating to San Francisco. In the early 1960s, his legendary mother Cecilia Chiang, opened The Mandarin, one of the first restaurants in the U.S. to serve Chinese food from regions other than Canton. After graduating with a B.F.A. from the Art Centre College of Design in Los Angeles, Chiang ran The Mandarin for several years before opening an off-shoot concept called The Mandarette in West Hollywood. As a smaller, less expensive café, the restaurant served "grazing food" which became an immediate hit and attracted the attention of restaurateur Paul Fleming.

After successfully opening Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Beverly Hills, Fleming was looking for a new opportunity, and in 1992, Chiang agreed to consult on a Chinese restaurant in Arizona where Fleming had recently relocated. One year later, the first P.F. Chang’s China Bistro opened and quickly turned into an Asian food phenomenon. In his current role, Chiang acts as a culinary consultant and also oversees new dish development and is responsible for the current menu. The new P.F. Chang’s in downtown Sarasota is enormous, with a menu that starts with a selection of pan-Asian hits, from dumplings and wontons, to spring rolls and Chang's popular chicken lettuce wraps. There’s also a variety of noodle dishes, chicken, beef, seafood and fish creations, with vegetarian and gluten-free options for those with specific diets. Although P.F. Chang's does appeal to a distinct demographic with a menu that is aimed at those who are not true connoisseurs of authentic Chinese cuisine, but who are game for something different without being overly adventurous, the food is chef-driven and made from scratch every day — "from farm to wok". The dim sum rollers are among the first to arrive. They roll, fold, and stuff egg rolls, dumplings, and wontons by hand, and they are undeniably delicious. With restaurants scattered over the globe, Mr. Chang is obviously doing something right.

Co-founder of P.F. Chang’s, Philip Chiang, learned from his mother, James Beard award winner Cecilia Chiang who is founder of the Mandarin Restaurant in San Francisco

Modern interior of the new P.F Chang's in Sarasota

Server at P.F Chang's

Cecilia's Pan Fried Pork Dumplings

Hand-Folded Crab Wontons with spicy plum sauce

Steamed Pork Dumplings drizzled with a light chili sauce

Flaming Wontons in a spicy garlic and sesame soy sauce garnished with scallions

Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps 

Long Life Noodles & Prawns with roasted chili peppers, chopped black beans

Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, Asian mushrooms, chopped black beans, peas, egg and green onion

Wok’d Spinach with Garlic

Singapore Firecracker Chicken with Black pepper garlic sauce, fresno peppers and onion