PF Changs at The Westchester

8 June 2012

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 June 8, 2012
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GFM is not a particular fan of chain food but I do like to sample restaurants that have dedicated gluten free menus. So, while having my car serviced I decided to give it a go for lunch at their White Plains location in the upscale The Westchester Mall.

Upon walking in we were greeting by a friendly host and as he was reaching for the menus for me and my partner I asked for the gluten free version. He quickly grabbed it and we were seated. I perused the menu and was very excited to see that there were quite a few choices available across all courses – dessert included. For me it appeared that the challenge would be steering clear of shellfish contact.

When our server arrived I explained my allergies and the need that anything fried would have to be completely separate not only for gluten but for shellfish cross contamination. I was not sure that he understood the severity of my shellfish allergy but more on that in a bit. I decided to have the Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps as a starter and Chang’s Spicy Chicken as an entrée with a side of the Shanghai Cucumbers. My partner ordered from the regular menu and had the Steamed Pork Dumplings and the Sesame Chicken.

After we ordered I just was not feeling like the server grasped the severity of my shellfish allergy and quietly went over to just ask the manager to please ensure that my needs were being effectively conveyed to the kitchen. Needless to say, the manager was more than happy to follow-up and make sure I would have a safe and enjoyable meal. I did not paint the server out as being incompetent or point the proverbial finger; I just approached it as wanting to make sure the requests were being addressed. The manager noted they take allergies very seriously and was more than happy to just double-check.

The starters arrived and we quickly dug in. The lettuce wraps were delicious and quite frankly could have easily been shared between two people and my partner did have one but wanted to let me enjoy my gluten free experience on my own. The crisp lettuce made for a nice contrast to the slightly spicy chicken mixture that was just salty enough and also had the added dimension of water chestnuts making for a crunch sensation. My partners steamed pork dumplings were pretty traditional fare and he enjoyed them. While we were eating, the manager popped over and wanted to make sure everything was okay and pointed out that the kitchen uses different plates to clearly denote the gluten free from the regular fare – nice touch.

The main courses arrived and it was nice to see manageable-sized lunch portions versus large unmanageable portions. We both opted for brown rice with our entrées and each received our own portion. I also wanted to try the side of cucumber salad which arrived with the main courses. The cucumber salad was nice and simple, just a bit of gluten free soy sauce and some sesame seeds. It made for a nice, cool accompaniment to the spicy chicken. The chicken was lightly dusted (presumable in corn starch) and swimming in a rich and spicy sauce. There were crisp peppers sprinkled throughout which made for a nice added crunchy texture to the soft chicken. My partner’s sesame chicken was well prepared with the sauce being sweet with a subtle hint of spiciness.

We both enjoyed our meals and I was so full I could not be tempted by their Flourless Chocolate Dome. Though I will have to give it a try next time I visit. Overall the food was good. It is chain Chinese food but makes for a nice change when you have a craving and want to be sure it is gluten free. I am lucky enough to have a couple of Chinese restaurants near my office that specialize in gluten free options so am a bit spoiled.

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