When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Pei Wei Asian Market Location: 742 E Glendale Ave (at 7th St). Open: Two days. Eats: Americanized Pan-Asian. Price Point: About $10 per person. The folks behind the wildly popular Pei Wei Asian Diner recently opened a slimmed-down version of the restaurant, dubbing it Pei Wei Asian Market (which Chow Bella writers have found fun to shorten to PWAM!). Given my aversion to nationwide chains but odd fascination with Pei Wei, I couldn't resist taking a peek.
The space is more industrial looking than a regular Pei Wei, with an open ceiling and an Asian street scene mural on the back wall. It's a curious mix of light-filled from wraparound windows and dark from the brown/black palette and Edison-style light bulbs. The rightmost screen of the flat-screen TV menu is a touchscreen that gives additional information on ingredients like lemongrass and Fresno chiles. The menu at first looks just like the familiar Diner menu, but further inspection shows the full-size Signature Dishes section is gone, replaced by a selection of sandwiches. The Diner Selects are called Pei Wei Classics, and the small plate menu is transported over almost entirely intact, with the addition of sweet potato fries (noted to be popular in Korea to justify their existence on the menu).