We crossed Chinese food off our menu of options to eat out a long time ago due to the risk of nut exposure. Same is true for Indian and Thai food. Personally, I love, love, love ethnic food, so this is quite a loss. (Insert sad face here.)
Recently, my sister wanted to have her birthday lunch at P.F. Chang’s, so that’s how we ended up at a Chinese restaurant for the first time in years.
However, before we even could agree to meet at P.F. Chang’s, we had to call to talk to them about the relative safety. To our surprise, the staff member answering the phone said that he has a nut allergy too and eats there all the time. He assured us there were plenty of nut-free items to choose from on the menu.
That was good news, to be sure, so off we went to P.F. Chang’s. Once we were seated, I began perusing the menu, and noticed this statement:
As soon as I told the waiter that my daughter has a nut allergy, he said he would get the manager. She came to the table and said she could provide us with a specific menu of nut-free items to order from. I was delighted to hear of such a thing as a nut-free menu! Unfortunately, due to an apparent printer malfunction, we never received the nut-free menu, but the manager and waiter were able to go down the list of safe options for us.
This, however, is where things got a little confusing. They kept mentioning their gluten-free menu and said that we could choose from those items and they would be made gluten-free. (Did I mention they were gluten-free?) I kept saying my daughter doesn’t need to avoid gluten–it’s nuts that are lethal to her–and asking what did the gluten-free menu have to do with anything, but they just kept directing us back to the gluten-free menu. Aside from this weirdness, they seemed to be very clear on what had nuts and what did not, so we placed her order for chicken-fried rice from the kids’ menu. She could have this, they said, but only if it was prepared from the gluten-free menu. Seriously.
Among the items she could not have straight from the normal menu was fried rice, so her chicken-fried rice was somehow made with steamed rice. It was a little odd and it had a kind of a grilled taste, but she didn’t complain, so I didn’t say a word. (She’s an extremely picky eater, so if she’s eating a safe, relatively healthy meal, I’m happy.)
I had ordered appetizers of crispy green beans (best item of the whole meal!) and dumplings. They made the point of saying she could have the green beans, but not the dipping sauce, and that she could not have the dumplings or their accompanying sauce. The restrictions were baffling, but we assumed it must be due to risk of cross contamination and appreciated their apparent vigilance.
When it came time for dessert, again, they were extremely clear and on what she could not and could have (chocolate mousse).
So, overall, I was generally impressed with P.F. Chang’s awareness and sensitivity to patrons with nut allergies. We enjoyed going out for Chinese food for the first time in years, and my daughter left the restaurant safe and happy, and for this, I am grateful.
But I remain confused about the cross-referencing between gluten-free and nut-free. My concern is that there seem to be a lot of nut products in a gluten-free diet, as a substitute for wheat, so is there risk lurking in a gluten-free menu?
It is also frustrating that the restaurant has created an entirely dedicated menu for patrons with gluten intolerance. However, there apparently is no such menu for food allergy sufferers who could be at risk of having a fatal reaction. Since we weren’t given one at the restaurant, I scoured their website and FAQ when we returned home, but found nothing related to nut allergies beyond the statement printed on the menu to inform the server if you have an allergy.
I remain perplexed and resolve to call the company to try and gain a better understanding.
Have you eaten at P.F. Chang’s with a nut allergy? If so, what was your experience?
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