By Ella Jermyn
Dear Pei Wei,
Why must you always disappoint? I have tried and tried to come around to your interesting take on cuisine, but I must say I don't even think I can call it food. Despite my love of Chinese food (even your Americanized “Chinese Bistro” menu items), my past few visits have been particularly subpar.
Let me recount for you my last visit to your not-so-fine establishment back in my home town. Upon entering the restaurant, I was immediately told that I “entered through the wrong door” and that “only customers who were picking up orders could walk through that door.” What do you want me to do? Exit then reenter through the “correct” door? I want to eat your food, not be belittled by your staff.
I stood in front of the counter facing the menu as a line of people, who had entered through “the correct door” lined up behind me. I searched the menu for a stellar dish that could possibly revive my dying love of your food, but alas, the menu was a barren landscape with only mediocre rice dishes I knew would disappoint. Reluctantly, I chose sweet and sour chicken, a dish that was once one of my favorites, and tried to find a table.
I drifted around your restaurant that has about as much ambiance as a doctor’s office and chose a seat at the least sticky table. Let me emphasize the “least sticky” part because without fail, every single table had a layer of goo on top. I’m convinced you wash the tables with maple syrup. After a (suspiciously) short wait, my food arrived.
The most notable aesthetic quality of the dish was the quantity of rice. After funding an archeological dig to find the sweet and sour chicken buried under all the rice, I took my first bite. While there were, as promised, notes of sweet and sour flavors, it alluded me as to how you achieved such basic sweet and sour flavor- perhaps refined sugar and cleaning vinegar. After chewing for what seemed to be hours, I finally got to the chicken flavor. However, it was not chicken flavor per say, but what I can best describe to be “chemically enriched” chicken. I don't mean the pretentious kind of “eww I can taste the GMO in this chicken.” Rather, instead of chicken, it tasted like Windex. The chicken tasted as if it had been deceased since 1300 B.C. and was excavated from King Tut’s tomb. Despite being convinced that my meal was a metaphor of a chicken's funeral- the dead chicken resting in peace, buried under mounds of rice- I finished my meal.
As if my experience had not been devastating enough, upon finishing the last bite, I immediately acquired cold like symptoms, such as a stuffy nose and watery eyes. Perhaps the chicken fostered some kind of mutant food poisoning that attacked my sinuses.
From start to finish my experience at Pei Wei parallels how I described your food: interesting. I was immediately scolded by your staff, subjected to your super-glue covered tables, and given the plague from eating the food. Bottom line, unless you are trying to give this kind of experience to your customers, then I would rethink calling yourself a restaurant. But, if you are looking to go into the chicken morgue business, you’ll do exceedingly well. Best of luck.