Checking Out P.F. Chang’s

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - October 04, 2006
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Two questions have been on the mind of foodies this past week, and my e-mail box has been full of them. “What’s PF Chang’s like? and “Have you been to Pearl?”

It’s amazing how many people stopped me in restaurants -and even one person in the supermarket - to see if I’d managed to get to these, two of the most hyped openings in recent months. I popped into P.F. Chang’s two weeks ago for lunch and joined about 150 other people who all seemed to be having a good time enjoying Chinese food in new surroundings.

I spoke to Bob Crawley after lunch, he’s one of the owner’sand he seemed thrilled with the reception and the fact that Chang’s had been able to achieve a relatively quiet opening. “We’re just so happy to be in Honolulu, and we think that by not advertising we’ve managed to open and get the staff up to speed already.” He wants to let everyone know that reservations are being taken for lunch and dinner. The restaurant is located in Kakaako, and it’s hard to miss the Chang’s signature giant horse outside. “We only brought one horse to Honolulu,” says Bob, “we’ll have two outside our next Honolulu location.” The service at P.F. Chang’s is very good. There are no grumpy dim sum ladies in slightly soiled shirts, no plates of chicken feet being forced on you whether you want them or not, and certainly no ceramic pots of tea on Formica tables. At P.F Chang’s a waiter mixes your hot sauce (there are a variety of stylish bottles on each table) and then explains the menu. The staff seems united in their joyous enthusiasm for the place, and we had the menu and the wine list explained in almost painstaking detail several times. The décor is quite delightful and while the sight of a full bar in a Chinese restaurant may seem a bit incongruous at first, I can certainly see why people would stop by for drinks and pupu after work. Certainly this is not your average Chinese restaurant. So how’s the food? On the whole, it’s pretty good. There are a couple of stand-out dishes (the lettuce wraps with spicy beef are great and there are unusually good desserts for a Chinese restaurant), but if you want a better pot sticker then you’d best head off to Mei Sum Dim Sum in Chinatown. The staff might be a tad less cheerful, and the atmosphere much less inviting, but it’s still hard to beat their food. P.F. Chang’s is well priced, offers good value, attentive service and a great atmosphere. I noticed a huge number of business people having lunch, and suspect that in the evening the restaurant will become a popular family destination. There are plans to open another P.F. Chang’s as part of the new Waikiki development project, so expect to see this popular chain around for the long haul.

I would have tried the food at Pearl the other night, but there were so many celebrities and ‘beautiful people’ crammed into the gorgeous new multi-million dollar night club/restaurant at Ala Moana Center that it was simply impossible to grab a bite. The much -hyped opening lived up to its own press releases, with paparazzi-style flashing cameramen snapping guests as they arrived and walked a Hollywood-style red carpet. Inside there are bars everywhere! There’s a stunning onyx bar, a terraced bar and an island bar and the bar stools are all proportioned so guests can make eye contact with almost anyone in the vast 5,435 sq ft room. Double bar stools and backless bar stools and incredible attention to detail on ceiling and bar treatments, make Pearl a stunning venue and certainly unlike any we’ve seen before.

Beau Mohr, a veteran of the restaurant and nightclub industry, is the man in charge, and Chef Donato Loperfido, Honolulu’s most passionate and talented Italian chef, is consulting in the kitchen, so I know the food’s going to be good. You can guarantee that Pearl is going to be packed every weekend for the foreseeable future -and with its multiple bars and sleek design, it’s certainly going to be the place to be seen. Expect great things from the bar staff - they’ve been trained by expert mixologist Francesco Lafranconi who came to Honolulu via the Wynn, Las Vegas.

Happy eating!

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