P.F. Chang's has always been one of our family's go-to restaurants for a reliable, safe, and delicious gluten free meal. So my son and I were happy when my aunt treated us to dinner at their Natick Mall location in the suburbs of Boston last Friday night, right after we concluded our annual week at Camp Celiac in North Scituate, Rhode Island (this was my son's fourth year attending, and I volunteer as a parent counselor).
My aunt and her friend were craving the Philip's Better Lemon Chicken, one of our favorites, too. However, upon being seated, we quickly discovered the Philip's Better Lemon Chicken was no longer on the menu. It had been replaced by Cantonese Style Lemon Chicken, which is described as, "crispy chicken breast sliced and drizzled with warm lemon sauce and chilled broccolini."
We asked our server if we could get the chef to make the Philip's Better Lemon Chicken instead, because I'd remembered they often honored customer requests for this dish during a brief period a couple years ago when they'd taken it off the menu. However, we were told they weren't able to do that, because they did not have all the ingredients required for the old recipe.
So we decided to try the new Cantonese Lemon Chicken. It was certainly good, but not quite as special as the Philip's Better Lemon Chicken. Rather than chicken chunks being dusted with a gluten-free flour, wok-tossed, and coated with lemon sauce, the new preparation of chicken was a more heavily battered and fried chicken breast, which was sliced after cooking and drizzled with lemon sauce. In our experience, this is similar to other Asian restaurants' preparation of Lemon Chicken...not as unique or tasty as the Philip's Better Lemon Chicken. (You'll have to forgive the photo below...we'd taken a few bites before I remembered to snap a photo.)
I don't know the reason for the change. We were also a bit surprised to find that none of the Seasonal Specials of entrees were gluten free. Typically, there are one or two that are, and they are always quite good. The only item marked "Gluten Free" on the Seasonal Menu is a dessert, which sounded delicious, but we were too full to try. It is the Ginger Panna Cotta, served with strawberries, strawberry sauce, and julienne Thai basil.
This restaurant will remain one of our top choices for gluten free dining. There are other favorites of ours on the Gluten Free Menu, including the Singapore Street Noodles and Shaking Beef. But I wish they hadn't messed with such a delicous and popular dish as the Philip's Better Lemon Chicken. I remember all too well the uproar over taking this off the menu years ago (from both Celiacs and non-gluten free folks alike). Perhaps if enough of us let them know our disappointment, they'll bring it back (again!).
We were also a bit frustrated with the length of time it took to get our food at this particular location on this particular evening. We waited at least 15 minutes until someone initially greeted us at our table and took our order, and then the dinner took forever to arrive. Our very nice waiter apologized and said it was because they only had one wok dedicated to gluten free orders, and I guess they must have had a lot of GF orders that evening. Still, it sounded strange, since we've never encountered this issue before. It was two hours before we left the restaurant, and that was after just two courses (appetizers and entrees). I was a bit surprised a manager didn't visit our table offering to comp us on our appetizers or offer us a complimentary dessert -- anything, really.
I'd be curious to hear if you've dined at P.F. Chang's since this menu change -- and what your favorite gluten free items are.