By Jano Tantongco
One of the essential tools of the trade at P.F. Chang’s is the restaurant chain’s wok, which boasts a 700-degree temperature that quickly and evenly cooks food, while maintaining its nutritional value. Such is an essential tool for Christopher Nestro, Culinary Partner at P.F. Chang’s in Melville.
For Nestro, it’s all about the preparation.
“We’re a 100-percent scratch kitchen,” he said. “We have meat cutters, our dim sum is rolled fresh every single day and our veggies are cut and prepped. Everyone has their own expertise in the area.”
Nestro described the cooking as a tightly-run series of prep cooks known as drahma cooks, who prepare aromatics to absorb a wide array of flavors in main staples like rice and meat.
He was already working as an executive chef in Florida, but advanced his education by graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Florida in 2008.
He then chose to start his path from the beginning, starting as a dishwasher, working his way up the ladder once again as a prep cook, fry cook, and executive chef once again.
“I wanted to learn every aspect of the business,” Nestro said. “I wanted to start from the bottom. Now, nobody here can say I don’t know what their job entails.”
Nestro added that the restaurant’s motto is “Farm To Wok,” serving up dishes that exude freshness and the bold flavor characteristic of Chinese cooking.
The Dynamite Scallop Roll ($11.95) features kani kama, avocado, cucumber, seared scallops with a creamy sriracha sauce that adds just enough spice to really make this dish pop. It’s an excellent starter sushi roll to start the meal off with a kick.
For a hearty appetizer, the Hunan Dragon Wings ($9.50) mix together an incredible burst of flavors including a powerful Hunan spice, a sweet chili jam, with nutty sesame seeds. The spiciness is moderate, and quickly balanced out with a bite from the accompanying pickled vegetables.
The wok-crisped Salt & Pepper Calamari ($9.75) tastes fresh from the ocean, with just a touch of spice and Fresno peppers. It’s lightly battered and serves with a sweet chili dipping sauce that perfectly complements the calamari.
A true example of fine wok cooking, the Singapore Firecracker Chicken ($15.95) boasts a bold and savory set of flavors. The black pepper garlic sauce and onions brings out the natural taste of the chicken. The addition of the Fresno peppers make this dish shine, since they’ve absorbed all the aromatics and sauce that enliven the overall meal.
A perfect complement to spicier dishes, the Walnut Shrimp With Melon ($17.50) brings an elegant combination of sweet and savory, with a citrus Asian aioli glaze that’s tangy, crisp and creamy. The candied walnuts bring a nutty flavor that pairs well with the shrimp. The honeydew cools off the entree, promoting a masterful balance of water and fire that delights both sides of one’s taste buds.
Walt Whitman Shops
160 Walt Whitman Rd, Space 1027B
Huntington Station, NY 11746
Cuisine: Modern Chinese
Monday through Thursday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Friday through Saturday: 11 a.m.-12 a.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.