If this trendy chain restaurant hasn’t reached your area yet, I would seriously consider phoning them and asking them why???
It’s one of my favorite post-op restaurant choices. Why? Well, first off, it’s called a “Chinese Bistro.” Now to the naked eye that doesn’t look significant at all, but a Chinese Bistro. A bistro is a French concept for a “small restaurant that traditionally serves bread and wine.” So for P.F. Changs, with their famous lettuce wraps, sleek plateware, dim environment (that makes you feel like you’re out to a romantic dinner even if you show up at noon) to call itself a bistro??? That, in and of itself, makes it awesome.
But the food…oh the food…that just takes it to another level. In this edition of “Pouch Party™ Peeks” we’re going to take a look at the food and see what’s worth checking out, what to leave alone and the many, many reasons you should check out P.F. Chang’s (if you haven’t already!).
The first thing I like about P.F. Chang’s is the servers. I’ve been there more times post-op than I can count (when I go out to eat, which is rarely, it is usually to P.F. Chang’s) and my servers have:
- Always been polite and served me well although my meal rarely amounts to more than $10.
- Never sweated me when I asked them NOT to serve me rice at all (and actually made sure it happened).
- Never looked crossways when I sent a plate to be packed looking virtually untouched (although they did ask, just once, if everything was ok. When I assured them it was and that I had just gotten full, that’s where the inquiry ended).
- Never pressured me to take water I did not want with my meal!
So that is always encouraging for us post-ops. Now, I don’t want you to think I’m just bragging on my local P.F. Chang’s. In addition to the four I have within 30 minutes driving distance, I’ve also visited them in New Jersey, New York, Chicago and Arizona. All with the same level of service.
Now let’s get to the menu. And by the way, you can find their full nutritional information by visiting their website.
I highlight this first because when we first sit down to a table is our only opportunity to experience beverages. The turn around time on the food isn’t terribly long, so you sort of have to do the beverage thing, if you’re going to do the beverage thing, as soon as you get there.
This is where I think this restaurant shines. First off, they have more than just the normal “soda, wine, beer” triumvirate.
In fact, they have a selection of wonderful flavored decaf teas that come in a little, ancient looking ceramic pot with the cutest little 3 oz. teacups. Perfect for folks who need to sip slowly. I HIGHLY recommend the Sweet Ginger Peach Decaf. The smell is divine. The taste is much better. My server knows now to bring me lots of Splenda and that if he lets me savor the taste of the tea for a few extra moments before taking my order, he will be handsomely rewarded. You have to establish that kind of relationship with your server, you know…
Moving along, they also have very nice decaffeinated iced teas as well. So the point here is that you have choices that aren’t water or diet soda (both of which I find less than stellar choices frankly. Your mileage may vary.)
More and more restaurants are integrating heartier choices into their appetizer menu and calling them “small plates” menus. I think this is admirable so long as there are both healthy and indulgent choices. Personally, when I go to P.F. Chang’s I do one of two things food-wise. I either order a few things from the small plate menu (and share them usually) or I skip it and just order my entrée (without rice).
Here’s three solid choices on the small plate menu:
You CANNOT go to this restaurant and not try the lettuce wraps. I don’t care if you go for the chicken or the vegetarian, this savory appetizer is a MUST try! It comes with four Iceberg lettuce leaves and a delicious concoction of either chicken or tofu mixed with water chestnuts and some sauce I cannot figure out for the life of me or else I’d make it at home!
The amount needed to fill each lettuce cup (which, incidentally, is the amount I’d say it takes to make a person 4 months out or less completely full) is about 140 calories, 8g of protein. It’s a bit high on the sodium (650 mg) for the amount of food you are eating (especially if you put their special sauce on there…I’ll get to that in a minute) but so long as you aren’t eating there every day, I don’t see why you can’t indulge every now and again.
Seared Ahi Tuna
This is a slightly pan-seared sushi-grade tuna (which is code for: you can actually chew it successfully) and it is GOOD. It’s about 160 calories, 10g protein and comes with a sauce that adds about 50 calories to the deal if you want to try it.
Newbie Best Bet: The Wonton Soup
This soup has the most protein and the least sodium, just skip the wonton noodles. It only comes in bowl form, which I don’t like but if enough of us request a cup, who knows? It might happen! It’s 92 calories, 7g of protein for each 7 oz serving, but the bowl is 32 oz. So for now, here’s my advice. Get the soup, ask for a cup sized bowl. Ladle yourself out what you can eat and go to town!
BONUS: Sensible Splurge: Spring Rolls
With 156 calories, 17g of carbs and 2g of fiber, if you want a splurge, I’d highly recommend this one. Beware if you’re newer out. Spring rolls are filled with steamed veggies that might not be kind to your system.
Like I said above, I have a tendency to either order a few of the starters or just my entrée and, again, I request it without rice. The nice thing about “Chang’s” is that they don’t give you mega-portions. Well…that comes with a caveat. To post-ops, especially newbies, most anything seems like a mega-portion. But in the “real world” the portions at this restaurant are quite healthy.
Here’s a three solid choices (and one splurge) from the entrees:
I’ve only gotten this once and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. This dish is a shrimp dish that is served in a light garlic sauce. Their plate is 2 servings, each of which have 200 calories and 21g of protein!
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Chicken, shrimp, mushrooms and veggies. How can you go wrong? The only thing I find wrong with their chicken selections is that most of them have sneaky sugar sources in the sauces, but this is a fairly safe choice. A plate is 3 servings, each of which are 247 calories, 18g protein. I personally go for the Dali Chicken, myself, which is relatively low-cal but also THE spiciest dish on the menu. So…most of you…don’t get that…
This is where the menu gets a little dicey. The steamed Buddha’s feast, a concoction of veggies in a savory sauce, is lowest in calories (220 to be precise, with 14g of protein). but has an ASTRONOMICAL amount of sodium in it. There isn’t enough water in the world to soak up that much sodium. The coconut curry veggies are the highest in protein (22g) but also the highest in calories per serving (520). My advice for vegetarians: go for the lettuce wraps on the small plate menu. In this scenario, it’s hard to win.
BONUS: Sensible Splurge
I would actually label those Coconut Curry Vegetables as a sensible splurge. They are quite delicious: smooth, creamy curry sauce over veggies. It’s so decadent you won’t miss the rice at all.
This, of course, is a fancy word for “add-ons.” Since they can call themselves a bistro, I can call their add-ons “accoutrements.” That’s just how it goes!
- Rice: I usually skip it but it’s noteworthy that they offer whole grain, brown rice and that you don’t have to special request it. They ask you which kind you want when you order.
- Sauce: If you tell the server it’s your first time there, they will show you the deal with the sauces. If not, it’s sort of like the seven seashells set up in the movie “Demolition Man.” You feel like you’re the only one that doesn’t get it. Main point here: moderation! Lots of sodium in that stuff but a little can enhance most any dish there.
- Dessert: Further-outs have pointed out to me in the past that I usually neglect to go over dessert options. This is true. I don’t routinely order dessert out but it is noteworthy that Chang’s has the most adorable little mini-dessert portions, served in shot glasses. They are a few selections from their larger dessert menu, just reduced in size! They range from 130-220 calories per dessert, so if you have one it’s not the end of the world. But I’m not going into any more detail about it.
So there you have it…your guide to exploring P.F. Chang’s. Next time you go to dinner, try it out! And tell them Nik sent you! (And watch they look at you quizzically as they think “who the hell is Nik???”)
Again, you can download this handy-dandy resource as a PDF by clicking here!