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Mike Cohen goes back to an all-time favorite in P.F. Chang’s

    Let me begin by saying what a huge fan I have been of P.F.Chang’s going back well before the iconic global chain first landed in Montreal. From Miami to Chicago and closer by in Albany, if there was a P.F. Chang’s in a city I visited they could count on me as a customer.

    There are now P.F. Chang’s locations in 22 countries.  Founder Philip Chiang (he spells his name differently) has been to Montreal twice since the first of two spots opened here in April 2013 – one on Decarie and another at Carrefour Laval. Now comes news that a third locale will open at Promenades St. Bruno in the spring followed by another sometime later in Gatineau.

    When I first got word that P.F. Chang’s was indeed setting up shop here on Rue des Jockeys next to the former Blue Bonnets Raceway on Decarie and at Carrefour Laval,   I was elated.    A consortium headed by Michael Aronovici brought P.F. Chang’s to Canada. In August of 2015, his group sold their interests to Groupe Sportscene, the owners of the Cage Aux Sports chain (now known as La Cage Brasserie Sportive).

    The Decarie location is operated by Emile Haykal (assisted by Jose Lourenco) while Craig Macdonald oversees Laval and serves as chief of operations for the P.F. Chang’s division.

    We recently went for dinner at Decarie with another couple. With all of the sharing possibilities at P.F. Chang’s and the excellent acoustics, this represents a fantastic choice if you want to enjoy the company of others as well as a meal different from all others in this city. I have relatives who reside in Vancouver. They are craving for a P.F. Chang’s to open there. As a result, when they come here, this is the first dining establishment on their list.

    The thing I must say about P.F. Chang’s is that going there is far more than just a meal…it is an experience! Ordering from the menu and deciding what to share around the table is a great deal of fun.   

    The first thing Sportscene CEO Jean Bedard did when his company purchased the Canadian rights was to drop the name “China Bistro” from the end of the restaurant name and refer to the place strictly as  P.F. Chang’s.  Local officials traveled to the restaurant chain’s US headquarters in Arizona in order to be schooled on how to implement a revamped new menu. While the staple favorites remain, such as chicken lettuce wraps, Mongolian beef, crispy honey chicken and shrimp, shrimp lo mein, crab wonton and more,  the sushi rolls ( lobster avocado, spicy tuna, California, kaleidoscope, spicy dragon, dynamite scallop and warrior) are extremely popular.

    We are crazy about the lobster and dynamite scallop rolls.   The Dragon Kungpao roll will the latest addition as will their own brand of General Tao chicken crispy beef and miso glazed salmon, just to name a few. Service will soon become rapidly fast with the introduction of hand pads for the servers. They will punch in the orders and they will go directly to the kitchen and the bar.

    Each dish on the P.F. Chang’s menu is prepared to order and from scratch using the freshest and highest quality ingredients. The environment at each location combines influences of Chinese and American cultures. A panoramic, hand-painted mural depicting 12th century China, is visible from the main dining room and commands attention as the restaurant’s centerpiece, while several terra-cotta warriors stand guard. The majestic 11 foot tall horses grace the entrance to many of the restaurants, including Montreal and Laval. This horse symbolizes the original Forbidden City in China, which was built for China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.

    One of our friends started her meal with a cup of hot and sour soup while the couple also shared an order of the superb chicken lettuce wraps: wok seared minced chicken, mushrooms, green onions and water chestnuts served over crispy rice sticks with cool, crisp lettuce cups

    In terms of dishes to share my recommendation is the Mongolian beef (tender flank steak wok-cooked then quickly tossed with scallions and garlic), crispy honey shrimp (lightly battered and tossed in a sweet and tangy honey sauce with green onions), crispy honey chicken (lightly battered and served in a sweet sauce over a bed of crispy rice sticks), double pan-fried noodles (crisp egg noodles stir-fried with mushrooms, bok choy, carrots, celery and onions and comes with a choice of beef, pork, chicken, shrimp or vegetable) and a bowl of steamed rice.

    There are also some pretty decadent dessert choices.

    The Decarie location has a separate upstairs and is available for private parties. Laval’s is smaller and more intimate. It is in the back of the shopping mall, facing Highway 440, with a storefront entrance. Business is booming there. The lunch specials at both also draw significant crowds.

    Emile Haykal and Craig Macdonald get busy at a retreat in Arizona.

    Haykal and Macdonald were recently at a retreat in Arizona with P.F.Chang’s operators from around the world.

    P.F.Chang’s also has popular takeout and delivery options, including Uber Eats.

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    Mike Cohen’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @mikecohencsl.

    Mike Cohen

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