Friday, March 30, 2007

restaurant review: pei wei asian diner

p.f. chang's fast casual eatery, pei wei (pronounced "pay-way"), opened a couple of weeks ago in my neighborhood. i didn't really expect to write a review of a fast food establishment but we were so impressed, i whipped out the camera a took a couple of shots of our food (only the chicken lettuce wraps turned out).

pei wei seems to have optimized the "fast casual" dining experience. there are two entrances, two lines and two cash registers; one set for dine in, the other for take away. the menu is posted on *huge* light boxes at the entrance and there's a sign that politely asks that you decide on your order before heading up to the cash register. after you place your order you're given a round tag with your number on it. you then get your drink, have a seat and display your number at your table. when your food is ready, they find you. i much prefer this option to the "here's your order number, now it's your job to worry about hearing us call it out in a noisy restaurant." like p.f. changs, the food is meant to be eaten family style, large serving spoons come with each entree and there are ample stacks of plates at each table. they bus your table for you and the manager offered to refill drinks for us. nice!

on the menu, you'll find a few p.f. chang's favorites, namely the lettuce chicken wraps (pictured) and pei wei (chang's) spicy chicken. entrees range from $6.25 to $9 and are generously portioned. we had the minced chicken with cool lettuce wraps (the chicken for which i caught a glimpse of them grinding fresh in the back - a good sign), the spring rolls (perfectly crispy and served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce - seriously yummy), won ton soup (served with wilted spinach, i really liked this) and the pork blazing noodles (just the right level of heat and very tasty).

when our food was delivered, the blazing noodles arrived with chicken rather than pork and just as we were saying "oh well -pork, chicken, who cares?" the manager came over to inform us that he knew the order had just come out wrong and he had an order of pork heading our way shortly. he was extremely helpful and brought us to-go boxes for the heaps of extra food we had. i commented that i thought the food quality was on par with p.f. chang's and the manager shared that they buy all the same ingredients from the same suppliers as chang's. it shows, because the food was pretty tasty. this definitely is a good alternative when you're craving p.f. chang's and aren't interested in an hour and a half wait on a weekend or if you're just in the mood for good pan asian fare.

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