It is typically very easy for me to avoid chain restaurants. Living in downtown Manhattan, I only have to dine at a chain if I actually want to (sometimes the Big Bacon Classic calls -- who am I to resist?). I was pulled into active Jew duty this past weekend, however, which resulted in a Saturday night spent with family in Jersey, and a Sunday afternoon spent with family at the Freehold Raceway Mall's P.F. Chang's.
Unbelievable. If I were to say that enjoying the food required culinary retardation, it would make the meal sound much better than it actually was. Crab wontons were composed of a crispy something wrapped around clumpy, pasty goo that tasted more of low-rent cream cheese than anything resembling crab. The seared tuna had no flavor. The sauce on the seared tuna had an off, unsettling flavor. The salt-and-pepper calamari included a breading seemingly designed to ensure that each bite of squid contained more oil than a high-school sophomore's forehead.
Then the mains arrived.
If you've ever found yourself wondering what people mean when they refer to bad Chinese food as "gloppy", then book a flight to Jersey. There is no better word to describe the orange peel beef, crispy honey shrimp, and dan dan noodles. Runner-up words include, but are not limited to: sticky, tasteless, foul, cloying, mushy, and hateful. All three of these dishes, though, were miles better than the steamed salmon with ginger. Unnaturally colored, cooked to death, and tasting like something that would come out of a can a few months beyond the posted expiration date, this was probably the single worst piece of fish I've ever been served in a restaurant. No exaggeration -- I cannot recall worse.
On the plus side, the vegetables in the mu shu pork were okay and the Mongolian beef was gone before I had to deal with it. Oh, and there was beer.
For what it's worth, I have eaten at PFCs in Tennessee and Virginia that were decent. This nauseous horror show seems to be a localized aberration -- one that's situated a hop, skip, and loogie away from a Cheesecake Factory, no less. Congratulations Freehold!
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