Asking about gluten on your first visit is not enough! Be sure to check and double-check in restaurants you know. Things change and it is possible to get confused between restaurants, between dishes that are save vs. those that will trigger your gluten allergy, and dishes you may not yet have ordered.
For example, there is a restaurant I’ve eaten in quite often over the years, it is an Indian Buffet. There are many gluten-free dishes I can eat, but there are a few I must avoid. Because they rotate the available dishes at the buffet, it is easy to for get what is safe and what is not.
This also depends on how your memory works. I tend to memorize partially by the location of the dish on the serving table, as well as the name of the dish. Because the same location gets used for different dishes from time to time, this is not a reliable method across multiple visits.
I have also found new information from different people. Remember, for the servers and chefs, it is hard to recall all the ingredients that might be in a particular dish. They should remember the main ingredients, but they may not know what is in some of the externally supplied sauces for example.
There are also cross-contamination issues to watch out for. Last night, I ate that the buffet I was just mentioning. One of the dishes is made of deep fried chick peas, a kind of vadas. The ingredients are perfectly safe. What I found out last night though, is that this dish is deep fried in the same oil as the samosas, which are made with a wheat pastry shell. The contaminated oil could transfer gluten to the vadas and trigger my gluten allergy.
There is another reason I’m glad I told them about my gluten allergy. Last time I was there, one of the dishes, served on a big frying pan, almost like a shallow wok, was a perfectly safe beef dish.
This time it was a seafood dish, which included fake crab. Fake crab is often made with wheat flour, so I had to avoid it. Based on the last time I was there, I would have assumed this dish was safe, but they changed things up and I would have been wrong, would have set off my gluten allergy and been a mess for weeks.
So even when you think you know what’s safe in a restaurant, it doesn’t hurt to ask again every so often.
What are your experiences with your gluten-free diet in restaurants? Do they change things up on you?