The Rundown:The City: San Antonio
The Place: P.F. Chang's
The Day: Friday
The Time: 9:00-11:30
I haven't been back to P.F. Chang's in some time. This location, at the mid upscale, outdoor shopping venue of La Cantera, presents itself as trendy and somewhat upscale as well. I only wish that more had gone right with the evening.
Attending as part of a birthday party, there were, perhaps, fifteen of us at the most. A large party to be sure, but it shouldn't matter whether you're there as an individual or as part of a fifteen top, certain elements need to be gotten right. The first misstep was the confusion over our reservations. Originally made for 9:00 that evening, our reservations were, instead, pushed to 10:00 without prior notification to the birthday girl. A bad first step to be sure, and a problem for anyone that had not eaten, or who had other places to be that evening.
Still, we lingered about in the lounge, taking drinks and chatting. Finally, 10:00 P.M. rolled about, and we were notified that room still was not available. Good restaurants have to be greedy, but not too greedy. Overbooking your dining room and making guests wait is not an appropriate way to conduct a business. We were seated, perhaps, at 10:20. In honesty, it was closer to 10:30, an hour and a half after our intended reservation time.
Following the wait, our orders were placed. Given the large number of people in the party, I won't make much of a deal that it took longer than thirty minutes to prepare our food. I can live with that, considering our numbers. What I can't accept is the condition of the food on arrival. I have an inkling that the cooks in the back left certain items on the stove too long while waiting on other items to be finished. I say this because both the fish that was served to my friend and the chicken I had were both dry.
Talking of my order, I had the Chang's Spicy Chicken, a dish that headlined their menus. Our waitress spoke highly of it, and so I wish it had been prepared with just a slight bit more care. The chicken arrived first, without the white rice that was supposed to accompany it. The dish, properly, should be enjoyed along with the rice simultaneously. Otherwise, you simply have a platter of lightly fried chicken in front of you. That was exactly what I had, and as the minutes rolled by and my chicken grew slightly colder, I waited for rice. It was finally brought out from the back, and I wonder what sort of care they used to rush it out. Not burnt, it might have been heated too quickly, as some of the moisture was no longer there. The chicken itself was slightly too dry, with portions of it actually somewhat rubbery. The sauce was tasty, but no amount of sauce will make up for dry chicken and dry food.
Don't get me wrong, there was quite a bit on my plate to eat, but at 14.00 dollars it's obvious that P.F. Chang's prices were set for quantity, instead of quality. Perhaps most insulting was the included gratuity for our party size. While not an issue under normal circumstances, there could have at least been some consideration paid to the fact that we waited so long. The gall.
All said, it was rather a disappointment, considering the overall care invested in its look and esthetic.
Like many urban modern Chinese restaurants, Chang's attempts to blend slightly upscale sensibilities with Chinese imagery, or at least as close to China as most Americans can imagine. Overall the look of the restaurant is quite nice, especially for evening dining. Muted colors give it a warm feeling and good impression, and the dark tables present a nice color to pair with the lighting. The bar is friendly, and dual televisions gave patrons a chance to watch one of two NFL games on that night.
Our server herself was quite friendly, and the staff was obviously trying to get us seated as quickly as possible, once the faux pas concerning our reservations came to light. The only knock I might have against the service was, really, that they needed two people to attend to our table. In the entire time I sat, I never had my drink refilled, and it was obvious that our waitress had entirely forgotten about the rice until reminded. A shame really, given her friendly nature. However, service is the name of the game, first and foremost. I would only hope that, next time, she pay more attention to every customer down the line of her table.
The greatest knock against the restaurant, though, isn't the wait, or the occasional lack of attention, though both need consideration. The greatest knock is that the food just wasn't good enough, not for the price and definitely not following the wait. Customers will wait, to an extent, for good food. So, would I go back? Indeed I am, to conduct a follow up review of the place, in the near future. I can only hope that, next time, it doesn't take two and a half hours to complete a dinner service. Heaven help us.
The Final Call:Facilities: 4/5