This week, my daughter and I tried out a brand new restaurant in Laguna Niguel, the . From the moment we entered, we realized that this place was a little unexpected. They feature cuisine from five Asian countries: China, Japan, Thailand, Korea and Viet Nam. As customers approach the counter, they first pass large, lighted panels displaying the menu. As we were looking over the panels, the photos of various menu items changed, so we could see photos of a number of featured dishes. An employee also handed us a written menu, in case it was easier for us to read from that.
The first section of the menu, features small plates, like chicken lettuce wraps, egg rolls, crab wontons and soups. The salad section offers three entrée chicken salads. Next, there are noodle and rice bowls, such as lo mein and pad Thai noodles or fried and teriyaki rice prepared with your choice of meat or tofu. The majority of the menu is comprised of their “signature dishes.” Some of the most intriguing of these include caramel chicken, spicy Korean, Thai dynamite, and Thai coconut curry. All of these can also be prepared with your choice of meat, shrimp or vegetables and tofu.
The “Low Fare Menu” offers one of five entrée choices along with a choice of one of three side dishes plus rice for $6.25-$7.25.
Finally, the “Kid’s Wei” section offers kids meals, including a drink for $4.25.
My daughter and I checked out all of our options, and I chose the Asian chopped chicken salad, and she chose the pork egg rolls to start and the shrimp pad Thai noodles. We paid for our meal, and were handed a number to place at our table and were given glasses for our beverages.
We headed over to the drink station. There, we found a fun, computerized drink dispenser. When we selected diet coke from the colorful menu screen, a new screen appeared with multiple flavors of diet coke. My daughter chose vanilla and I chose orange diet coke (which I highly recommend, by the way). As my drink was dispensed into the glass, I could see a squirt of orange flavor shoot into my drink.
We selected a table and took a look around the place. The interior walls are covered in used bricks. Large, black and white photographs create interest around the room. At the front of the dining area, is a busy and loud, open kitchen. I counted fourteen people working in the kitchen, the night we were there, which adds to the high-energy feeling at Pei Wei.
My salad was delivered quickly and very soon after, the egg rolls and then the noodles. On the tables are serving spoons and plates, so it is easy to share dishes family style. We found the portions to be fairly large, which is another reason to share. My salad was delightful, with chicken, lettuce and cabbage, Thai basil (delicious), tomatoes, toasted sesame seeds, and crispy wontons in a sesame ginger vinaigrette.
The egg rolls included pork, cabbage, mushrooms, carrots and scallions and were served with a dipping sauce. The noodles were steaming hot, prepared with Thai sweet and sour sauce, tofu, bean sprouts, scallions, egg, peanuts, lime and cilantro. They were spicy and quite tasty.
We really enjoyed our meal at Pei Wei Asian Diner. The atmosphere is casual and cool. It is not a place for a quiet and serene dining, but is great for families and for those who like a lively spot. The food is flavorful, interesting and well-prepared. The service was friendly and efficient. We will definitely be back. Pei Wei is located at 27321 La Paz Road in Laguna Niguel. They are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
I give Pei Wei 4 Patches out of 5.