Friday, August 4, 2006

Dodgy Asian-Themed Restaurants

I was talking to a friend of mine Marc about a new Asian-themed restaurant just opened in northern Scottsdale called Ten Asian Bistro. A quick browse through their website, I have spotted something that is not quite right. Under each item in the rollover menu, it has a corresponding character.

For someone that is not familiar with Chinese or Japanese, one might think the characters are actual translations of “home”, “menu”, “general info”, and so on.

These are random characters that are there to give the website an “Asian” feel. Especially when is used for both “home”, “décor”, for “general info” and “reservations”.

Recently in Phoenix New Times, Stephen Lemons wrote this about another Scottsdale restaurant called Ippei Japanese Bistro:
“Ippei general manager Justin Cohen would not allow any photos of his restaurant's food. His lack of confidence is telling… Ippei aims to be destination dining, but it is not there yet. As of now, I'd rather do the five or six hours via car to L.A. But if you're in Ippei's vicinity, you could do worse. After all, both McGrath's Fish House and the White Chocolate Grill share the same complex.”

I was about to post this, then I got an email from Igor with this photo of a Japanese restaurant he visited.

What are those characters in the left plaque? It could be due to poor lighting, but doesn’t the chef appears to be more Hispanic than Japanese?

Domo Arigato, Senor Avocado San.

P.s. Do not even get me started on the establishment known as P. F. Chang’s.


  1. The top one of left-hand side painting in the Japanese resturant could be 亦... But its really bad none the less... but that's about what I have grown to expect at Japanese resturants. I had a friend who was a hostest at a "Japanese" resturant while she was taking Japanese 101 and she was the only one who knew any Japanese not on the menu since most of the staff were mexican and Chinese (she was Chinese as well).

  2. The last character on the right-hand side of the photograph of the chef might be trying to be 次, which would make the whole thing say "~の旅次" or "Gibberish's hotel".

    I'm guessing that similarity probably wasn't intentional, though.

  3. Oh gosh..P.F. Chang. While living in Irvine, California, I made the mistake of going there once with my other Chinese friend. We both sat there staring at the food thinking, "We're getting charged $15 for orange peel chicken? We could've gotten that in a 3 item combo for $4.50." Never again..

  4. That looks like a teppanyaki restaurant. I can't recall a time when I've eaten at such a place and _not_ had a Latino chef.

  5. Can anyone tell me if the Chinese on this Mah Jong set's case is intelligible or is it just gibberish. I only know enough Chinese to be able to recognize the characters needed to play Mah Jong and Xiangqi. I would like to know if buying this Mah Jong set would be worth it or would it just get me laughed at by my Chinese friends?

  6. in response to the mahjong set question from anonymous. i wonder if some of it looks familiar:

    why one would have commentated neo-ruist philosophy on the inside of one's mahjong case is beyond me. i also wonder if the pictures are illustrations of zhu xi's work. perhaps zhu xi is more exciting than i remembered him to be. worth another gander, i'm sure.

  7. Oh no...the mall near my house is getting a PF Chang's. I hadn't even heard of the place until last month. How bad is it?

  8. I've eaten at PF Chang in Denver and near Philly and I think the food quality is excellent. A Japanese friend and I very much enjoyed our visit there, and she used to work at a restaurant in Japan.

    You may be able to get cheaper food at your local ghetto Chinese restaurant, but it's going to be loaded up with salt and fat to please the locals. PF Chang's food is quite a bit better, but you pay for it.

    If you have a good independant Chinese restaurant, by all means, support that, but if you don't, give it a try.


  9. P.F. Chang's is okay as long as you go in there with the expectation that the food is far from authentic. The white rice, for example, isn't the least bit sticky. One of their "secret sauces" that they have at the table is Tobasco sauce. I've had friends refer to it as "Panda Express in a nice setting".

    It's not the worst "Asian" (I use this term loosely in reference to P.F. Chang's) food that I've had, but it's certainly not the best. It's mediocre food with jacked up prices. There is almost always a family-owned Chinese restaurant around the corner that will give you twice the amount of food and twice the quality for less than half the price of P.F. Chang's.

    The one reason I still visit P.F. Chang's occasionally is because they offer better vegetarian options than the rest of the major chain restaurants. It's useful for when you're with family or friends who are too scared to try the real thing (*points at my inlaws who had never heard of an egg roll until they met me*).

  10. Why is white rice NEVER STICKY in the US??? Is it THAT hard to get it right?? Or would it just upset Americans' delicate "Norleans" palettes? No wonder Americans don't understand the concept of chopsticks.

  11. One of the greatest tragedies inflicted upon the Washington DC restaurant scene in recent years has been the opening of a "PauliMoto's Asian Bistro," nominally fronted by ex-Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, but backed by a guy who used to run a PF Chang's in Florida. The food is inexcusably bad, even for fusion cuisine.

    But probably the funniest thing I learned while reading up on the PauliMoto-P.F.Chang connection is that PF stands for..."Paul Fleming".

    Is he possibly the missing link in George Bush Sr.'s infamous urge to "unleash Chang?"

  12. I'm just a dumb Minnesota Yanguizi. I've only been taking Mandarin classes for a short time, so forgive me, but I absolutely don't recognize the hanzi for Ten (shi 2) shown on the restaurant website. Could it be that the standard hanzi for 10 "+" didn't look "Asian" enough? Scary thought.

  13. jf pilot,

    That character shown is actually 天.

  14. Yes, "ten" is the Japanese reading of the character 天 so I guess that is where the name of the restaurant came from.

  15. Why is white rice NEVER STICKY in the US??? Is it THAT hard to get it right??

    It *is* sticky if you buy the right rice. Any self-respecting "Asian" restaurant would have it.

    As to why white rice in the US is not sticky in general, it's just the length of the grain and what was brought over from Europe combined with what's indigenous to the US. Short-grain rice is not commonly grown here, although Nishiki rice in the US *is* domestic.

    I can't say why a place like "PF Chang" wouldn't have sticky rice. Even Benihana has it.

  16. My name is not "Igor".