Two stories involving Chinese food caught my attention last week. First, there's local news about what is arguably one of OC's best Chinese restaurants, China Garden in Irvine. Fellow OC Food Blogger Julian Hsu has the scoop. In his post, he writes: "We just ate there for dimsum lunch today, and noticed a sign in the windows indicating that the new owner will be "VIP Seafood Restaurants, Inc."
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He adds, "Hopefully VIP Seafood Restaurants is the same entity that owns VIP Harbor Seafood in West Los Angeles, a second floor eatery off Barrington and Wilshire, that was similarly serviceable, if not in the same league as the outposts throughout Monterey Park and Rowland Heights."
The second notable Chinese food story last week was this article on Reuters (actually it was cribbed from another site called The Big Money) with an analysis on why P.F. Changs is a successful brand. The summary: it's not authentic and everyone knows it; but as far as most people are concerned, it has very good food. The article goes to point out that there are just as many bad "authentic" Chinese places out there as there are good "inauthentic" ones.
To this I say: my one and only experience with P.F. Chang's occurred last year in Huntsville, Alabama. I had just flown in on a business trip. I needed food. It was getting late. I didn't know the area. So it was either a regional Mexican chain or P.F. Chang's. Both were close to my hotel. I chose the latter and immediately regretted the decision. What I had was an over-soy-sauced, gloppy mess of stir fried noodles with anemic pieces of chicken turned to sawdust. The dish was one-note: salty. In fact, it was so salty it gave me a migrane for hours afterward. I was amazed that it managed to have that effect, since I could only force myself to eat about five or six forkfuls.
I didn't try anything else, nor have I patronized any other P.F. Chang's since. They could, in fact, do other dishes well. But I would add to the argument that bad food can also happen regardless of success.
The best part about that article? This quote by someone they interviewed:
"Just as saxophonist Kenny G provides jazz for people who don't really like authentic jazz, P.F. Chang's peddles Chinese food to diners who might not cotton to authentic Sichuan fare."
I couldn't have said it better myself.