There aren't a lot of national chains of Chinese restaurants out there - one theory being that wok cooking doesn't lend itself to consistency. But one chain has been successful: P. F. Chang's China Bistro, with 55 locations around the country.
The area's first P. F. Chang's opens in The Mall in Columbia this week. Expect the kind of high-style (read expensive) decor you don't find in small, family-owned Chinese restaurants. But even though this is a 200-seat chain restaurant, the food is cooked to order in the open kitchen, with specialties like "Chang's Chicken in Soothing Lettuce Wraps," orange peel shrimp, Mongolian beef and crab won tons.
Because P. F. Chang's is a Chinese chain for the new millennium, there's an extensive wine list with nearly 50 wines by the glass, draft beer is available, and you can finish dinner with more than a fortune cookie. Elaborate desserts and espresso drinks are on the menu.
The restaurant is open every day for lunch and dinner. Dinner entrees run from $7.95 to $12.95.
Low-salt, low-fat - or not
A family-owned Chinese and Japanese restaurant with a sushi bar has just opened at 7407 Belair Road. Midori - which means "green" and "enjoy your health" - specializes in low-fat, low-salt and low-cholesterol dishes, says co-owner Irene Wang. (Of course, all the good fattening stuff is available as well.)
Midori is open every day for lunch and dinner. Japanese entrees are priced from $10.50 to $12.95, while the Chinese dishes are $4.25 to $9.95.
Tea time at Admiral Fell
Quite a change. The Admiral Fell Inn's pub, the Point, has just become the Petticoat Tearoom (814 Broadway). Open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, the tearoom shares the space with owner Kitty Knoedler's other business, a gift shop called Southern Accents.
Knoedler describes the look of her tearoom as "perfectly pink," with pink walls, white trim and carpeting covered in roses.
As for the food, you can get ladies' luncheons, such as quiche and salad platters with finger sandwiches for under $10, and two different teas.
You'll need to make reservations for both afternoon tea ($15.95) and high tea ($19.95), which is really a light supper. Call 410-342-7884 for reservations.
Freedom from 'chains'
As more and more upscale chains appear, I've been wondering when one of them would object to the term "chain," with all its negative connotations. Now one has. When I ate at a Big Fish Seafood Bistro in New Jersey recently, the hostess corrected me when I asked if it was a chain. I was told Big Fish is part of a Michigan-based "collection" of restaurants.
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