The latest dining concept from Paul Fleming Restaurants debuted Tuesday with a soft opening in downtown Naples. The grand opening for PJK Neighborhood Chinese Restaurant is set for March 14 at 835 Fourth Ave. S., the former longtime spot of Ciao Ristorante.
Nationally acclaimed restaurateur Paul Fleming and his wife, Jody Goodenough-Fleming, launched this new restaurant prototype with a casual coastal vibe as the first of many other locations planned. After all, Naples resident Paul Fleming is the creator of well-known restaurant chains such as P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Pei Wei Asian Diner and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. His Naples-based restaurant group also has majority ownership of Lake Park Diner, which is building its second and third freestanding locations in Bonita Springs and at Founders Square.
“We are extremely excited to introduce PJK to the Naples community and view this as an opportunity to launch a brand-new concept that provides a twist on the traditional neighborhood Chinese restaurant,” Paul Fleming said via a news release this week. “Our goal is to eventually roll out this new restaurant concept into other parts of Florida.”
The inaugural PJK, located a block north of Fifth Avenue South in downtown Naples, specializes in scratch-made coastal Chinese. Dishes showcase a mix of traditional and modern Asian flavors and the specialties and sauces are prepared daily using fresh, locally sourced ingredients.“Our Chef-partner Kayla Pfeiffer is passionate about the culinary arts. Her cooking showcases the bold flavors of authentic Chinese cuisine that we all know and love as well as her own modern interpretations and fresh seasonal features,” said Jody Fleming, chief executive officer of Paul Fleming Restaurants.
Pfeiffer, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, formerly was executive chef at The French in downtown Naples and at Bar Tulia Mercato in North Naples. Many of PJK’s contemporary takes on Asian classics were created with a coastal influence by Paul Fleming Restaurants’ consulting chef, Paul Muller.
Dishes were created and polished in the former Naples spot of Bill’s Cafe, which is being used as a research-and-development test kitchen for Paul Fleming Restaurants. Before the end of the year, that small space at 947 Third Ave. N. is destined to be its own Paul Fleming restaurant concept, Pablo’s Authentic Taqueria, which will feature a simple menu of Mexican fare made from traditional recipes curated by Muller.
PJK’s menu features starters such as Grouper Cheek Bao Buns and Asian Corndogs, favorites such as Dirty Fried Rice and Dan Dan Noodles, and classics such as General Tso’s Shrimp, Kung Pao Chicken and Mongolian Beef. The menu also features sections for salads and dim sum, traditional Chinese small plates. PJK specialties include Scallion Pancakes + Caviar, homemade pancakes dusted in a Sichuan salt served with crème fraiche and American sturgeon caviar; Miso Glazed Cod, a classic entrée with PJK’s version featuring cod marinated for 72 hours in white miso, sake, mirin and sugar; Short Rib, a dish designed for sharing with short ribs braised in soy sauce, mirin, sriracha, shitake mushrooms, onions, celery and carrots and then seared and served deconstructed; Mapo Tofu, a dish inspired by a trip to New York City that features soft tofu marinated in white pepper and chili oil with an option of adding ground pork; and Peking Duck, an entrée designed for two to four people featuring duck dried and blanched in a three-day process, slowly roasted until crispy, then sliced and served with house-made scallion pancakes and dirty fried rice.
The restaurant serves six different types of dim sum with favorites such as chili pork wontons, lobster Rangoon, shrimp and pork shumai, shrimp pot stickers, soup dumplings and truffle-mushroom crystal dumplings. Each PJK dish may be paired with a bottle from an extensive collection of curated wines or a variety of hand-crafted cocktails.The new restaurant has more than 150 seats connecting outdoor patio spaces with a contemporary dining room. PJK also eventually will provide the opportunity for takeout with a separate entrance and dedicated parking in the rear of the one-story brick building.
PJK Neighborhood Chinese is only open for dinner now 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant anticipates expanding hours soon for lunch and takeout.