Any time a foreign franchise makes its way to Pakistan, the hype creates itself (for obvious reasons).
While P.F. Chang's has been around for a while now in Lahore, we all know Karachi foodies are way harder to please (sorry not sorry).
When we learnt that the Pan Asian restaurant was making its way to our city, we had to find out if it lived up to the fanfare.
Here's what we thought:
Where to go
Located at Comm 3 on Bilawal Roundabout, P.F. Chang's is hard to miss; the red exterior coupled with their iconic horse statues stands out.
The interior is just as grand and opulent with the eatery being split into two floors. We arrived around 7:30pm when the place was still relatively empty but the dinner rush poured in by 8:30pm and it got packed fast.
When to go
The restaurant opens its doors at noon for lunch and closes at midnight on weekdays and 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.
What to order
First things first, we want to give a shoutout to our server, Hamza. We would legitimately go back just for him; efficient, helpful and chirpy, Hamza really made us feel welcome and made sure we had a seamless dining experience.
And not in an overbearing way that sometimes happens at Kolachi. You the real MVP, Hamza!
They have tons of interesting cocktails on the menu so we decided to try the House-Made Ginger Beer and Rose's Lemonade. The ginger beer tasted like just mint and soda water which is strange and the lemonade was a little too sweet for our liking. Loved the garnish of fresh strawberries and blueberries though!
Now that that's out of the way, lets talk about the food. We were off to a good start with our appetisers.
How could we go to P.F. Chang's and not order their signature Dynamite Shrimp as a starter? This one did not disappoint; the shrimp was cooked perfectly and the batter remained crispy despite being churned in their tangy dynamite sauce that packs some serious heat.
Next came their Steamed Chicken Gyoza which was another hit at the table. The sauce drizzled on top was mild yet flavourful and the filling of minced chicken was zesty. The ratio of the meat to the dough was also spot on. By this point, we were happy campers.
Things took a south turn when our sushi arrived though. We tried three maki rolls: Dragon Roll, Rainbow Roll and Fried Noodle Roll. Long story short: these did not do it for us.
The fish didn't taste fresh, the butchering of the fish was sloppy and the fried noodles tasted more like pakora mix. Thanks but no thanks; if we're paying nearly Sakura prices, we expect high-quality sushi.
While our game plan was to try different dishes and not the usual ones that Chang's is known for (for example, like their lettuce wraps or Mongolian beef), we did decide to try one of the OGs aka Kung Pao Chicken.
It tasted how you expect Kung Pao to taste; it was a simple dish hitting the right sweet and sour notes but to be frank, it was nothing to write home about. That said, none of us on the table were big fans of chicken in general so that might have something to do with how forgettable this entree felt.
Now the Wok Fried Filet Mignon was something we all really enjoyed but a big problem with the dish was that the meat was overcooked; had they kept the beef more medium rare than well done, this would've been a winner.
The surprise for us was the Red Chilli Buttery Prawn, maybe because our expectations were low. Hamza recommended this to us when we were ordering and we're so glad he did!
The egg noodles it came with really were buttery and silky and while at first glance we thought there weren't enough prawns on the plate, we still had a couple left over once all of us (a party of four!) were done eating. This dish also packed some serious subtle heat.
How can we forget dessert?
To be fair, by now we were too stuffed to enjoy anything but we still went ahead and ordered two items off their sweet section.
The banana springs rolls weren't the best; using frozen bananas might have helped because the deep fried batter wasn't soggy but the banana inside was strangely mushy.
That said, the pineapple ice cream with coconut flakes to go with it was so refreshing. We even recommended that they should serve it separately on their menu.
The strawberry and coconut cream cake was also pretty average. It tasted almost like cheesecake but was way more dense and so just felt very heavy. It also tasted kind of bland. We were also expecting more strawberries. Hello, they're the best part!
Damage on the pocket?
P.F. Chang's ain't cheap! Granted we did order a lot and had a ton leftover, our bill was around Rs.15,000 with drinks and dessert. That's almost 4000 per head! So yeah, the prices are steep but we'd say it's worth a visit at least once.