I, along with the rest of Charlottesville, have been waiting for months for Peter Chang to come to Charlottesville (again). On a whim, my boyfriend and I decided to go to Peter Chang’s China Grill for lunch one Saturday afternoon. I had heard that you needed a reservation, but we popped in to see if they had any openings. Luckily, they had just started to take walk-ins and the hostess seated us moments later. Given that one of my areas of specialty here at Mas to Millers is cheap eats, we had hoped to be able to order some of the very affordable lunch specials, but unfortunately they were not available on the weekends. What follows is a review of their full-price menu.
Peter Chang’s has transformed the old Wild Greens restaurant space into a quaint and beautiful atmosphere, well beyond what the prior tenants were able to achieve. Servers bounded around the dining room, attending to guests and running plates of food from kitchen to table. So, it was only a matter of moments before a waitress promptly appeared to take our order. Having given up meat for Lent, I looked for a delicious meat-less alternative. The menu consisted of several pages, and had options outside of standard Chinese fare, like Phở (Vietnamese noodle soup). For an appetizer, we ordered the Dried Fried Eggplant. For entrees, my boyfriend ordered Kung Pao Chicken, and I ordered the Braised Fish Hot Pot, which the waitress kindly pointed out would be very oily and very spicy, just to make sure I was aware of what I was in for. I appreciated the tip.
The food was gorgeous and delicious. I still dream about the eggplant appetizer. It was a huge plate of fried eggplant spears, each one dusted with the perfect amount of salt and chili and mouth-numbing Sichuan pepper. The combination of salt and spice paired perfectly with the combination of a crispy outside and a tender center that melted in your mouth. My boyfriend, who hates vegetables, had sworn he wasn’t hungry enough for an appetizer; still, he fought with me over the last few pieces.
We were just as pleased once the entrees arrived. The chicken had a crispy, but not heavy, coating, and was incredibly moist. The spice was present, but not overpowering. It looked so good that I actually broke my Lenten promise and had a few bites. My Braised Fish Hot Pot was exactly how the waitress described – very oily and spicy. Even though I don’t think I would order it again – I didn’t enjoy the clear noodles it was served over – the fish was perfectly cooked and delicious. Even with all the oil, it was not heavy. Both plates were large enough that we both took leftovers home (and we tend to be big eaters).
Although it’s not the cheapest Chinese food I’ve ever had, it’s some of the best. You’ve done well (again), Chef Chang.
Jed says: “Don’t be misled by reviews on Yelp and elsewhere posted during the absurdly chaotic earliest days of the restaurant’s public opening, when neither the kitchen nor the service could handle the onslaught. While we find it occasionally too salty, this and Taste of China are otherwise the best Chinese food in town, and Peter Chang’s China Grill has the best Chinese restaurant ambiance. The eggplant and hot pots are not to be missed!”
Rating: Kaitlin: Jed:
Pros: Knowledgeable, kind wait-staff; great variety; fantastic execution
Cons: No weekend lunch special
Price: $40 for two entrees and an appetizer
Parking: Plenty in the North Barracks Road Shopping Center parking lot
Phone: (434) 244-9818
- Yelp: Peter Chang’s China Grill – Charlottesville, VA
- Elusive Chef Peter Chang returns to Charlottesville for a feast of epic proportions
- Wikipedia: Chef Peter Chang
- Charlottesville-Dining: Comments on Peter Chang’s China Grill
- Family of Five: Peter Chang China Grill
- The Hook: Pho-nominal: Chang serves up new dishes