Pei Wei Asian Diner
Torrance Town Center
2777 Pacific Coast Hwy
Torrance, CA 90505
Pei Wei Asian Diner (pronounced PAY-WAY) is owned by the same corporation that operates P.F. Changs China Bistro. Pei Wei does offer a different menu than its big brother with slightly different influences not only from China but also Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Pei Wei Torrance is located near the corner of Pacific Coast Hwy and Crenshaw Blvd. near Panera Bread, Big 5 and Smart & Final. The restaurant is free standing and uses common parking with the rest of the businesses in the Torrance Town Center. There is ample parking but during peak times you may have to walk a bit. When you enter the restaurant you stand in line and order from the register using an LCD menu at counter top level. After ordering, you pick up your own utensils, fill your own soda and seat yourself at one of the tables or booths.
CARL: I regularly visit P.F. Changs in Manhattan Beach and the Del Amo Mall in Torrance. P.F. Changs is a nice place for a date, business lunch or a special event but is a bit much for every day lunches. That’s where Pei Wei comes in. Pei Wei has some of the same style and quality elements of P.F. Changs but in a more casual, cafeteria style atmosphere. On this visit to Pei Wei I decided to order something different so I went with the “Diner Selects” lunch special ($6.95). The lunch special comes with your choice of chicken dishes (Kung Pao/Pei Wei Spicy/Tereyaki/Honey Seared/Mongolian/Caramel) and includes rice and your choice of side (Spring Roll/Cup of Soup/Asian Slaw). I opted for Caramel Chicken with brown rice and the Hot and Sour Soup. The soup was indeed hot but I wouldn’t describe it as sour – more spicy to my wimpy taste. The Caramel Chicken was also unexpectedly spicy but I enjoyed the flavor. The portions were just right and, with the refillable soda it was a good bargain for under $10. One unexpected surprise at this location was the soda machine. According to the very chatty guy in front of me, the machine uses a powder to make the various sodas on tap and because of that it offers dozens of different kinds of soda. The cool looking soda machine by Pininfarina (designer of many pricey Italian sports cars) is a super cool bonus. A great value and good quality food. 4.5 Pigs!
OLIVER: This was my first time eating at Pei Wei, I love Chinese food and was eager to give them a try. If you have ever eaten at the Corner Bakery then you know what the dining environment is like at Pei Wei. That is not at all a bad thing, but they share a very similar environment and both fall in the “Fast Casual” category. You order at the front counteras you do at a fast food restaurant, but a server brings you the meal and takes care of anything else you might need, drinks are still your own responsibility.
I ordered their Lunch Special and got the Kung Pao Chicken with a side of Asian Slaw. They had some mix ups with the order, but they got it worked out with no problems. The food came quickly and included a fortune cookie. I have eaten Kung Pao chicken at nearly every Chinese restaurant in the LA area, throw in the Bay area and I have good idea of what Kung Pao chicken should taste like and how spicy it should be. Tacos and Kung Pao are my benchmark foods. I usually try the Kung Pao at every Chinese restaurant I go. There are a few different factors in Kung Pao, you have the viscosity of the sauce, is it goopy? Is it watery? Spiciness is the other factor, does it make your face break out in a sweat causing the server to ask if you need assistance or 911? Or does it make you wish you had brought your own flavoring?
The Kung Pao turned out to be pretty good. It was definitely spciy enough for me and had a good consistency to the sauce, but what it lacked was size. I thought the portion was too small. The portion was small enough for me that it would seriously impact my choice on returning, if I was very hungry and wanted to keep on the $10 budget I would choose to go elsewhere. As far as the environment and quality of food, they do a very good job. If you choose to spend a little more you can tame your hungry inner caveman, but small portions are the rule for most meals here. I like a lot of food, that’s how I roll. I give Pei Wie a solid 3.5 pigs.