Despite Genghis Khan's best efforts, horses don't scream "Chinese restaurant" to me. And yet the cool horse out front draws all eyes to P.F. CHANG'S CHINA BISTRO, the newest addition to Spokane's downtown dining scene. The sculpted stone beast towers a good 10 feet above the sidewalk -- how many hands is that? -- and makes a great landmark for drivers approaching the restaurant's entry and its valet parking stand.
Not that the place needs more attention; diners faced a 30-minute wait for seating in the expansive dining room last Friday, even after most downtown workers had long since returned to their desks. At least there were a handful of spots in the lounge, where seating is first-come, first-served. The 60-seat covered patio is due to open this week, and when it does, Chang's will hold 330 people -- a regular Mongol horde.
The d & eacute;cor -- shoji-screen chandeliers, dark earth tones and copper-tinged accents, combined with polished granite and slate floors -- evokes a perfect melding of cultures, a sleek upscale American take on modern pan-Asian themes. A room-length mural tops the opening into the exhibition kitchen, giving the dining room a sense of theater and indicating that you're in for an experience, not just a meal.
Ah, but the meal is the point, isn't it? Like its 140 sister restaurants across the country, Chang's offers wok-seared specialties from the five culinary regions of China, according to local operating partner Vincent Azanza. The cultural stir-fry evident in the d & eacute;cor carries over to the menu, which offers traditional favorites -- beef with broccoli, moo goo gai pan, lo mein -- alongside some unexpected partners like oolong marinated sea bass, Chengdu spiced lamb and the curiously named Philip's Better Lemon Chicken. (Better than what, I wonder? And who the heck is Philip?) Lots of vegetarian options are available, including some gorgeous and spicy platters of green beans and cucumbers, and Chang's gives diners a choice of brown or white rice as an accompaniment.
Lunch prices hover around $8-$10, with entrees topping out at $19. Even if you don't order dessert, your meal will end with the traditional Chinese fortune cookie. Mine read, "You will spend many years in comfort and material wealth." No wonder I left in a good mood.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
P.F. Chang's, 801 W. Main Ave., is open Sun-Thu 11 am-11 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-midnight. Call 456-2166.
& r & The Real Deal & r & RESTAURANTS
With all the hubbub surrounding the opening of P.F. Chang's downtown, you might have missed the opening of another Asian restaurant, unless you frequent the Mead neighborhood. TAE'S TERIYAKI features Japanese and Korean cuisine prepared by owner Tae Hanson.
"Since I'm Korean, I know how to cook all the basic Korean foods," Hanson explains. "I also lived four years in Japan, where I learned to make Japanese food."
Teriyaki is characterized by its sauce -- a mixture of soy sauce, mirin or sake, ginger, seasonings and sugar -- that imparts a rich flavor and color to meat or vegetables bathed in its marinade. Korean food is known for its complex flavors that combine fresh ingredients and striking condiments, like ginger, chiles and sesame oil.
All menu items at Tae's are Hanson's own recipes, made with her special homemade sauce, fresh vegetables and ingredients. Teriyaki chicken, beef, pork and shrimp dishes are charbroiled and seasoned with Tae's "famous" teriyaki sauce. Other Japanese offerings include yakisoba noodles stir-fried with vegetables and choice of meat, and a tempura plate with prawns and vegetables. All teriyaki and Japanese meals are served with steamed rice and salad.
Korean dishes include spicy chicken, deep-fried chicken wings with hot sauce, and spicy pork, marinated in a chili sauce before grilling. Bulgogi, a Korean specialty dish of beef marinated in a soy sauce and grilled with vegetables, is also offered. If you're a barbecue fan, try the kalbi -- grilled, marinated beef ribs. Kimchee (fermented Napa cabbage with Korean chile) and gyoza (fried or steamed ground beef dumplings with a special sauce) are other Korean specialties at Tae's. As in any good Asian restaurant, there are combination plates and egg rolls. Prices are reasonable, ranging from about $7-$11.
The serene Asian feel of Tae's begins with the waterfall surrounded by plants at the entry, wide windows flanked by paintings by Hanson's daughter, and cool colors punctuated by reds throughout.
"I opened this restaurant for my neighborhood so the people can know more about Korea," Hanson says.
Tae's may not be as trendy as Chang's, but it's got real Asian hospitality and flavor.
-- SUSAN HAMILTON
Tae's Teriyaki, 603 W. Hastings Rd., is open Mon-Sat 11 am-9 pm, Sun 11 am-3 pm. Call 466-3436.