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Peter Chang China Cafe, Szechuan Restaurant Chain Undergoing Expansion

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On 2/13/2018 at 12:11 PM, Ericandblueboy said:

I've never had a bad experience at Peter Chang Arlington but since they said there's a chef change, my prior experiences don't mean squat.

That was until today.  The food wasn't bad it just was not worth drive across Arlington for.  The fried chicken with chilies is scarcely the same dish as it used to be.  It is now marinated and then fried and unlike the previous version it is not dusted with the salt and ground Szechuan peppercorns.  As it cooled it became sweet.  It was made even worse by the slapdash way the meat was cut up.  The best dish of lunch was the duck pancake which tasted strangely Italian.

My wife sent me a text asking me where I went to lunch and the back and forth was:

Me: Peter Chang's

Her: The place in Shirlington?

Me: No that is Charlie Chang's

Her: the place in Tyson's where we went for your nephew's birthday?

Me: No, that is P.F. Chang's

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Hong Kong Palace & Asian Origin  > Peter Chang (Arlington) now.  

Peter Chang Arlington also changed its menu (the actual menu is now different from their online menu).  Notably, they now serve Peking duck. 

Pictured are sauteed diced chicken w/ Sichuan chili pepper, hot and numbing noodles, duck roll, and House Special flounder fish fillet with mixed mushroom in spicy pickled pepper sauce.  The chicken flavor is way off, the noodles were more vinegary than hot or numbing, and the fish was gloppy and a bit sweet.

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Unfortunately, Peter Chang's has always been high variance.  I've had the occasional let down meal, then gone back a month later and been blown away.  HKP (and, in my view, Panda) are a bit more predictable.  

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Peter Chang’s newest restaurant, Mama Chang, will feature homestyle cooking.

Does Peter Chang cook at home? “No, he doesn’t,” says Lydia Chang, his 30-year-old daughter.

But that’s the point. Lydia says Mama Chang is not about the famous Peter Chang, but about his wife, Lisa Chang, who is a pastry chef who “doesn’t get the recognition.” Her mom, Lydia says, is actually the creator of many of Peter’s signature dishes, such as the scallion bubble pancake and the spicy, silky tofu skins.

The name of the restaurant is also a reference to Peter’s mom, who helped to raise—and feed—Lydia. But it’s also about returning to Fairfax.

“Fairfax is home to us. We’re back to our home base,” says Lydia, who is in charge of business operations for the Chang’s many restaurants, including one planned for Baltimore next year. This is where Peter first cooked and became the known-entity he is today, and some of China Star’s most famous dishes will make an appearance on the menu.

Different from Peter’s other restaurants, Mama Chang, set to open this winter, will showcase cooking from Hubei province, where Peter is from, with dishes not saturated in peppercorns, like the Szechuan cooking Peter is best known for.

Instead, there will be an emphasis on cured meats and fish, with a Chinese-style charcuterie plate possibly featuring wild game; sourcing is still being worked out, says Lydia. There will also be a salad display case (chili oil mushrooms, shredded tofu skin), plus plenty of homestyle stir fries, says Lydia, because that’s the dish of home cooks: “All they need is a burner and a wok.” // Opening winter 2018/2019; Mama Chang: 3251 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax

Per Northern Virginia Mag by Stefanie Gans.

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Well, I guess this is like a usual Peter Chang place? Go there opening week or risk him not being in the kitchen?

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My first Peter Chang experience was a huge disappointment. We had a sampling of signature dishes last week at the Arlington location, and all were poorly seasoned and extremely greasy. The worst offender—the cilantro fish rolls—oozed grease with each bite. They were inedible. Also oily and bland were the dry-fried eggplant and the bamboo flounder fish. The Dan Dan noodles were less greasy but lacking any real flavor aside from “heat.” The best dish, for me, was the scallion bubble pancake, but it was scant on scallions and oily on the bottom as well.

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16 minutes ago, DIShGo said:

My first Peter Chang experience was a huge disappointment. We had a sampling of signature dishes last week at the Arlington location, and all were poorly seasoned and extremely greasy. The worst offender—the cilantro fish rolls—oozed grease with each bite. They were inedible. Also oily and bland were the dry-fried eggplant and the bamboo flounder fish. The Dan Dan noodles were less greasy but lacking any real flavor aside from “heat.” The best dish, for me, was the scallion bubble pancake, but it was scant on scallions and oily on the bottom as well.

I'll go a step further, and say that the most-recent restaurant meal I can remember that was this inedible was a delivery order from the indescribably bad Kahinoor Dhaba in the summer of 2017.

To steal a phrase from my (very French) mother-in-law, when a server asked how her meal was at some gloppy, corporate Tex-Mex chain out near Sterling:

"Zees food eez for zee peegs." 

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2 hours ago, DonRocks said:

I'll go a step further, and say that the most-recent restaurant meal I can remember that was this inedible was a delivery order from the indescribably bad Kahinoor Dhaba in the summer of 2017.

To steal a phrase from my (very French) mother-in-law, when a server asked how her meal was at some gloppy, corporate Tex-Mex chain out near Sterling:

"Zees food eez for zee peegs." 

Cruise ship bad?

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1 hour ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

Cruise ship bad?

No, no - this was spice, grease, and little else: My impression of cruise ship food is that it's super bland in order to be "safe" for senior citizens - a step up from hospital food, but not a giant step.

Has anyone else had an experience at the Arlington Peter Chang that was this abysmal? This was not subtle.

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FWIW, I had a Very excellent meal at the Williamsburg outpost a few weeks ago. I was a touch leery that the quality would be that good in a place known for peanut soup and sub par barbecue, like the 'burg, but everything was really well done.

Go Tribe!

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On 7/23/2018 at 1:40 PM, DIShGo said:

My first Peter Chang experience was a huge disappointment. We had a sampling of signature dishes last week at the Arlington location, and all were poorly seasoned and extremely greasy. The worst offender—the cilantro fish rolls—oozed grease with each bite. They were inedible. Also oily and bland were the dry-fried eggplant and the bamboo flounder fish. The Dan Dan noodles were less greasy but lacking any real flavor aside from “heat.” The best dish, for me, was the scallion bubble pancake, but it was scant on scallions and oily on the bottom as well.

I had a fantastic lunch at the Rockville location recently, about a month ago, which included the dry fried eggplant - it was as good as I remember ever having it in previous tries in both Fredericksburg and Arlington.  Seems like consistency is a big issue across the empire, though.  Who knows, it could change tomorrow but maybe Rockville is the place to go these days for your Peter Chang fix.

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On 7/24/2018 at 8:30 AM, Jeff Heineman said:

FWIW, I had a Very excellent meal at the Williamsburg outpost a few weeks ago. I was a touch leery that the quality would be that good in a place known for peanut soup and sub par barbecue, like the 'burg, but everything was really well done.

Go Tribe!

On 7/24/2018 at 6:57 PM, Rhone1998 said:

I had a fantastic lunch at the Rockville location recently, about a month ago, which included the dry fried eggplant - it was as good as I remember ever having it in previous tries in both Fredericksburg and Arlington.  Seems like consistency is a big issue across the empire, though.  Who knows, it could change tomorrow but maybe Rockville is the place to go these days for your Peter Chang fix.

FWIW, my one-and-only visit to Williamsburg was almost as good as Peter Chang has ever been - I cannot imagine more people haven't chimed in about Arlington; then again, they were doing a *lot* of carryout orders, so maybe people just don't know.

I know I can be hyperbolic in my enthusiasm, but I thought long and hard about meals in the past year, and I couldn't think of any other meal that was this bad - DIShGo was actually the one who thought of Kahinoor Dhaba (she threw all of that food out despite both of us being hangry).

I have pictures on my phone, FWIW - I'll be glad to post them (edit - I put them here), but they just don't tell the story: Each dish was tasted before being pronounced a fallen soldier. The staff couldn't understand why we didn't want to take two-thirds of the food home (incidentally, there were *no* scallions in the scallion pancake - it was just fried, greasy dough which literally dripped if you pinched it (it didn't drip a lot, but it dripped)).

DIShGo may never know just how ethereal Chang's food can be.

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23 hours ago, Rhone1998 said:

I had a fantastic lunch at the Rockville location recently, about a month ago, which included the dry fried eggplant - it was as good as I remember ever having it in previous tries in both Fredericksburg and Arlington.  Seems like consistency is a big issue across the empire, though.  Who knows, it could change tomorrow but maybe Rockville is the place to go these days for your Peter Chang fix.

I will give the Rockville location a try. I would love to try a well-executed version of the dry fried eggplant.

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17 hours ago, DIShGo said:

I will give the Rockville location a try. I would love to try a well-executed version of the dry fried eggplant.

We only go to the Rockville location, and this dish is SPOT ON every time.

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Q: Asian dinner in northern Virginia

hi Tom, I always hear about how you can find delicious Asian food in Nova in spots such as Annandale, Falls Church and Fairfax. A few of my buddies and I want to go somewhere delicious for dinner for Saturday - we're open to any type of Asian cuisine in Nova except probably Korean as we had that recently. We don't need anywhere fancy - if there's an amazing hole in the wall type restaurant located in a strip mall with delicious food that would be fine by us. Are there any spots that you'd recommend? Thank you!

A: Tom Sietsema

Peter Chang in Arlington should be on the top of your list. The restaurant, with a menu created by a former chef at the Chinese embassy, comes with a dash of style, and the food includes crowd-pleasers running from scallion bubble cakes to cumin-scented lamb chops. 

LOL...it behooves @Tom Sietsema to read this board.  😁

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Tim Carman's article yesterday described Gen Lee's reaction to their signature eggplant dish appearing on the menu of Andrew Zimmern's new Minnesota restaurant. The article notes Mr. Zimmern did not ask permission to add it. Zimmern got a demo in July 2013 when he visited Chang's Richmond location (the first page of this thread includes a link to Zimmern’s Vine of the visit, but it highlights a fish dish).

I wonder: did Zimmern disclose to Chef Chang he envisioned opening a chain of restaurants? At the time, Chef Chang could have seen this kitchen visit as an informal nod to a journalist/T.V. personality, not sharing a recipe for future commercial use. Sure, it was 5 years ago, but ouch. Who knows, their expansion plans might geographically overlap. Chang's restaurants' quality have varied depending on who was in the kitchen and some here have had disappointing meals. What if Chef Chang was even farther removed from the plate?  

When I first read yesterday's article I thought of Tom Power's "Chocolate Hazelnut Bars" heartfelt homage to Michel Richard and their time working together. Mr. Zimmern's offering was not this. 

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