Monday 25 February, 2013

Pei Wei opens on Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills


Just stuck my head into this new outpost of Pei Wei on North Beverly Drive, almost at the epicenter of haughty downtown Beverly Hills. While a new outlet of this Panda Express-competitor normally wouldn't inspire notice, with this marquee-level spot (certainly this is *not* a cheap piece of real estate), the PF Chang's company seems to be bringing out the big guns.

But that's just "inside baseball" chatter. The good news for anyone working in downtown BH is that you suddenly have a more-than-decent affordable lunch option. How affordable? Small portions of their cooked-to-order "signature dishes" are between $6-8. Less, if you opt for tofu instead of chicken, beef or shrimp. Kids meals are basically the same price as McDonalds. How many fast options are there in BH at that price point (can you count past one hand)? And they have 'party meal' pricing for virtually the whole menu, which also seems like a fast fix if your office needs to do a lunch meeting on short notice.

If that all seems like a big shill, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Pei Wei is going to threaten (James Beard Award-nominated) Night + Market. Their slogan "Over 35 Fresh Ingredients. 5 Asian Cultures. 1 Great Exploration." seems a little weak and puffy--teriyaki is all you'll get from Japan for example, and almost everything leans towards the 'unnecessarily sweet' end of the spectrum. Still, if you can't make it to Sawtelle for something more authentic, you're not going to find many other spots to get Dan Dan noodles around these parts. Not to mention being able to get with tofu and/or brown rice (and it's CHEAPER than with meat, no "hippie tax"). According to the website, you can request a lot of things gluten-free, too (though I'd eye that carefully if you happen to be highly sensitive--even if they use different pans, it's the same kitchen).

It's clearly part of the emerging trend of "fast casual" or whatever you want to call it. From McDonald's new sustainably sourced fish bites to the about-to-blow-up LYFE Kitchen in Culver City, the Dukes of Drive Thru are finally realizing that normal working people want and need to eat healthier. As ol' Martha would say, "It's a good thing."

Pei Wei Asian Diner

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