Normally we would stay the heck a-w-a-y from PF Chang's but my wife Jen recently received a $50 gift certificate to PF Chang's. Hey, its a free meal. PF Chang's certainly was full on Friday night and their production certainly is slick.
For our $50 we had:
Northern Style ribs appetizer - very dry spareribs with a big cup of 5 spice powder on the side. Very mediocre.
Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps - This is supposed to be their signature dish. Did I mention that the diced chicken had no flavor? No essence of the wok either. At least you get 6 of them. Much better versions to be found using Pigeon at say, a lot of other restaurants in the Bay Area.
Pot Stickers - Hey, this was tasty! Hot, pan fried, and the filling had good gingery and pork flavor. I can appreciate good Chinese-American food when I see it... kind of. :-)
Diced Chicken and Eggplant, Szechuan style - A mess of diced chicken and tender eggplant in a sauce with absolutely no complexity or flavor other than somewhat spicy. And, the chicken had no texture or flavor. Bleh.
Hot Fish - Stir Fried Fish slices with vegetables. This would have been good except they used catfish. It was okay. The sauce was medium hot, the flavor was kinda bland.
So We had a let down of a meal, and it sure was embarassing for me to be walking into PF Chang's for dinner (maybe like a Mexican walking into Taco Bell for a meal?) but it was free. I cannot complain. I'm also trying to be nice as possible. :-)
Obviously this Friday night's dinner required major redemption.
So after Yimster and others' review of Ming's Diner on 31st and Taraval, Jen and I and two friends converged to Ming's last night for Dinner. Its a classic Cantonese cooking restaurant. Its not fancy and the cuisine is not HK-refined like it is at South Sea or Koi Palace or Parc HK, but its good, inexpensive classic Cantonese cuisine.
FWIW, the place was absolutely full at 7:30 pm on Sunday night. There are three menus. An English & Chinese Menu, a Regular Chinese Menu, and a Vegetarian Chinese Menu. We ordered everything below off the Chinese Menus, except for the fish, which I simply asked the server what they suggest for stir fry fish slices. I presume the fish might have been on the English & Chinese Menu as its a pretty standard dish.
Soup of the Day - Regular Free Soup... Reddish Brown clear broth steeped with chicken and red dates. A great and classic starter.
Nor Mai Churn Gai - Glutinous Rice Spring Chicken - A whole chicken that was flattened, lightly fried, and served (stuffed?) with glutinous rice with diced chinese sausage and chinese mushrooms and other goodies. I enjoyed this a lot. There didn't seem to be much chicken to begin with (I think the chicken was quite small, or maybe my dining compatriots just gobbled everything up) but I really enjoyed this. This reminds me of the stuffing my mom used to stuff her turkeys with for Thanksgiving. Yuum. And, for $6.50, even more yum.
Sow Gnau - Vegetarian Goose - Beancurd sheets that were lightly fried on the outside and stuffed with carrots, mushrooms, and other veggie goodies. This is the first time I've ever seen this dish fried. My wife Jen enjoyed this thoroughly... I'll damn it with faint praise and say that I thought it was ok. I prefer the non-fried versions like at Spices! A huge mound of marinated seaweed came with this dish, which, like Yimster mentioned before in a previous post, could have stood on its own. The seaweed was flavorful and clean and crisp.
Ngau Sung Pa Do Fu - Minced Beef paired with Tofu. A lot of minced beef that had been tenderized and stirfried and poured all over casserole dish full of soft tofu. This dish was very mild and the green onions on top gave it flavor ... I liked this... reminds me of home cooking. This is the perfect vehicle for a bowl of rice. Yum.
Sa Cha Hoi Sin Bo - Satay Sauce Seafood Claypot. This was either the best dish of the meal or the second best (over the chicken) depending who you talked to. This was well prepared, as evidenced by the obvious lack of any cornstarch enhanced sauce! It was a clay pot filled with squid, scallop, shrimp, green and red peppers, all coated with a thin and medium spicy satay sauce. Yuuummm.. All the seafood was expertly cooked... just the right consistency and no chewiness. The squid had that prized snap texture, and they didn't skimp at all on the scallops!
Somethingrather Choi Ban Kau - Mixed Vegetable stir fried with Fish Slices - This is another standard fare Cantonese dish where the sauce and flavor is light, and the freshness of the food does all the talking. Tons of restaurants offer this but its not that easy to find a restaurant that can do this without over oiliness and can stir fry fish fillets super fresh. Yum. The fish slices were very fresh indeed (it had that ever so faint "ban" flavor that only occurs when the "ban" is super fresh and the veggies were crisp. I don't know what is "Ban" in English....rock cod maybe?
Total including tax and tip: $44.