Asian eateries heating up restaurant scene with expansion plans

Asian flavors are fast taking hold of the restaurant landscape in North America, with two popular US chains announcing major expansion plans.

P.F. Chang's China Bistro announced last week that they've inked deals to set up restaurants in Canada. The chain will expand into Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The first location, which hasn't been disclosed, is scheduled to open in 2012.

The chain has locations in Kuwait City, Dubai and Mexico City in addition to 200 locations across the US. They're also currently exploring licensing agreements with developers in the Philippines and Puerto Rico.

Their menu is described as traditional Chinese cuisine fused with Southeast Asian flavors, served in a contemporary, American-style bistro setting.

Locations are immediately identifiable by a pair of signature 11-foot (3.5 m) horses that stand guard over the entrance of many of the restaurants. The animals are meant to symbolize the original Forbidden City in China.

The restaurant also combines Chinese and American influences, with a panoramic mural depicting 12th century China, and several terracotta warriors watching over diners in a modern atmosphere.

In a survey last year, Zagat readers voted the restaurant the Top Facility among full-service chains, and it came in second after Bonefish Grill for Top Food, a title they claimed the year before.

Menu items include traditional dishes like Kung Pao Chicken, Lo Mein, and Beef with Broccoli, in addition to a gluten-free selection.

Meanwhile, the creators of Chipotle Mexican Grill announced Tuesday that the first restaurant from their new Asian chain ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen is slated to open this summer in Washington D.C. The menu will be based on the flavors of Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. Industry observers have been keeping a keen eye on ShopHouse developments given the success of the Chipotle formula which emphasizes fresh, sustainable ingredients.

The menu is described as bold, complex flavors accenting grilled, braised meats, vegetables, herbs and spicy sauces. Like Chipotle, customers will move along a service line and customize their meals.

A report released last month by food consultancy group Technomic also largely credited Chinese fast-food outlet Panda Express for pushing growth in this sector. The limited-service restaurant chain grew by 12.8 percent last year and generated sales of $1.4 billion (€966 million).

 

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