Monday, January 18, 2010

Restaurant Review: PF Chang’s

I recently had the pleasure of visiting P.F. Chang's China Bistro, a real Gluten Free destination, for dinner. I've been contacted by quite a few readers letting me know that this place really knew what they were doing when it came to catering to GF customers. For one reason or the other, I just hadn't made it over there yet. A reader (thanks Denise) then recently put me in touch with the Operating Manger of the Crabtree location, Glyn Jones. I was invited to experience their Gluten Free dining options and to get some more detailed information from Glyn.

Of course, I first did what I always do, internet research. I found P.F. Chang's Web site which mentions Gluten Free right on the home page. They boast 17 menu items available for Gluten Free diners and even have a link to a recent USA Today in depth article on Celiac Disease. You really just don't see that too often. I also read numerous reviews and message boards from successful P.F. Chang's experiences around the USA. I made my reservation and mentioned that I was Gluten Free due to Celiac Disease and that I would require their GF menu. The hostess I spoke with told me the GF menu is now included in the normal menu – also nice to see.

You can see the online GF menu here. Click the Gluten Free link at the top.

I was really blown away by the sheer number of choices available on this GF menu. The only other place that offers this much is Bella Monica. I'm usually pretty happy to go to a restaurant and be able to eat ONE thing, let along nearly 20 menu items that range from Starters, Soups, Sides, Entrees and Desserts. It was also very nice to see some of the normal menu items that were already Gluten Free or easily modified to be GF.

Our dining experience was top notch, our server was excellent and I was greeted and checked on by the manager on duty (thanks Nate) numerous times throughout the meal. We had the opportunity to sit at the "Captain's table" which is actually located in the kitchen area and provided a front row seat of the operations of the kitchen staff (nice when you are on a special diet so you can keep an eye on things). Our server went over all the Gluten Free menu options and was available to ask any questions that I had. The manager (Nate) also took the time after our meal to show me a few things in the kitchen and to explain the process of preparing a Gluten Free meal as safe as possible. He let me know that the restaurant at a franchise level does an enormous amount of training around GF and other special diets. They take a lot of precautions to ensure safe meals. Some of those precautions involve using designated dishes and cooking utensils and thorough cleaning of shared cooking spaces (Wok) when GF menus are prepared. The order tickets used by the kitchen staff are specially marked GF and special sauces are created used GF soy sauce throughout the process. He said they are always looking for ways to modify or create new menu items to further expand the GF menu – awesome! I was pretty impressed with how they are doing things. Nate let me know that they take safely preparing GF meals very seriously and feel like they have a pretty sound process for doing so. I think the success and growth of their GF business and menu are proof of that.

On to my order… of course I was happy to see RedBridge on the menu so that was definitely a tasty treat (or three). Our party also had the Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps appetizer (Quickly cooked spiced chicken served with cool lettuce cups and gluten free sauce) which were amazing. For my meal, I ordered the Chang's Spicy Chicken (Lightly dusted and stir-fried in a sweet Sichuan sauce, a.k.a. General Tso's) with brown rice. Some of the other members of my party also ordered from the GF menu even though they are not required to eat that way. There were just so many enticing choices. The GF food came out on special round plates with red P.F. Chang's logos (which my server told me to watch out beforehand). This is nice to know that your meal is standing out throughout the cooking/serving process. The food was delicious! I also had some Moo Goo Gai Pan (P.F. Chang's version of the classic Cantonese dish with chicken, shrimp, mushrooms and vegetables) which was also very yummy! The food was so good that I pretty much stuffed myself to the point where I almost didn't have any leftovers. Somehow, I still found room for the GF Dessert menu item; Flourless Chocolate Dome (Served with fresh berries and raspberry sauce). This dessert was also amazing and provided a nice finish to the excellent GF experience.

Overall, this was one of the best Gluten Free dining experiences I've had to date. I will definitely go back in the future and strongly encourage you to do the same. If you have not had the opportunity to dine Gluten Free at P.F. Chang's, now is your chance. The more we visit, the more we will reinforce their decision to cater to us. A win-win. You can also sign up for a Warrior Card and get 10% off your bill.

P.F. Chang's China Bistro
4325 Glenwood Avenue (Crabtree Valley Mall) – there is also a Durham location (Streets @ Southpoint).
Phone: 919-787-7754


Custom Choice said...

Knowledgeable staff and good taste (unfortunately) are still rare combination at restaurants when it comes to eating gluten-free. Thanks for writing this tremendous review, I will definitely go there!

Lauren said...

I've had great experiences at PF Chang's in Raleigh (except for once 3 years ago). I love the spicy chicken! I wish more restaurants had the designated plates, especially. I gladly support restaurants that go to such great lengths!

Curious Art said...

I'm a long-time fan, & my son even worked at the Durham location for a time, so I had an inside view on their process. They really do take it seriously (& of course other gf-ers loved it when he told them his mom had CD). Those lettuce wraps are addictive... I can't go there without ordering them!

Katie said...

I recently found out I am allergic to wheat, soy and peanuts. Hearing about a fantastic GF menu, I decided to try out PF Chang's. Order 1: GF Singapore Street Noodles. I advised the server of my allergies and he seemed genuinely concerned. Less than 10 minutes later he came out to tell me in order to be prepared GF, soy had to be used. Okay, not then end of the world. He then told me about this neat system they have which prints a special menu considering everything I cannot have. I have never heard of this before and think it is genius. Order 2: Chicken Lettuce Wraps. I have heard nothing but praise about these bites of heaven, so I was excited to try them out. Once again, he comes back out saying that he did not factor soy into my special menu and that I could not have the wraps either. Ahh, disappointment. When I opened up the second special menu another wave of disappointment sinks in... only one item available. Order 3: Lemon Chicken (this is no longer on the menu but regulars still order it). It was not bad- a bit overpoweringly lemony. But with all the hassle it took I was just happy to be eating something at this point. I left thinking I was in the clear, only to have that oh so familiar feeling rise in my stomach. I do not know which intolerance was triggered, but needless to say I will not be back to PF Chang's. ]:

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