Through various channels (one of the Ohio celiac webpages for one, and a friend of my mother's eavesdropping on neighboring diners for two), I'd come to learn that long time neighborhood Chinese food standard Pearl of the Orient had gluten free options. That ubiquitous term could've meant anything. Would they offer me steamed veggies and rice without any sauce? Did they have one sauce that they'd pour over everything, which yes, would make it gluten free Chinese, but really would offer me one blander than bland option? Would I get lucky and have two choices - rice and vegetables or rice noodles and vegetables?
Such are the pessimistic wonders of a celiac going for dinner. Like beer, cupcakes, or freshly baked bread, Chinese food is lost to us. This is due to the fact that most soy sauces contain wheat, thus making an otherwise wonderland of gluten free possibilities completely poisonous. Sad but true, Chinese food is not for the gluten free amongst you. Most of the time, that is, because I have nine words for you: Pearl of the Orient has gluten free soy sauce.
Wholly moly. As the manager explained to me, "the whole menu is open to you. ...well, I'd advise against the egg rolls." They are willing to adjust any of their sauces, making them personalized and fresh for you, with their gluten free soy sauce packets. That's right, free from cross contamination packets. Being able to eat practically anything on the menu? Yeah, I could live without the egg rolls.
With four of five pages of options, the menu is pretty extensive. Frankly I was overwhelmed by the choices. We settled on vegetable-tofu soup for 2 (made vegetarian by a water-based broth!) and I, being so unable to choose, ended up with the Vegetarians' Delight with tofu - sauteed vegetables and tofu in a white wine sauce. Okay, maybe I wasn't so adventurous but it was my first time out of the gluten free gate here, cut me some slack.
Both dishes were beautifully presented and perfectly yummy. Crunchy sugar snap peas, crisp carrots, golden firm tofu. I'd say I'd be going back for more, but that would be a lie. How could I could get the same old same old in the face of options like Szechuan Eggplant, String Beans in Garlic Sauce, Vegetable Soup Noodles, Pad Thai, Steamed Buddha's Dream, or Vegetables in Peanut Sauce? And for the non-vegetarian, the options open up ten fold. At Pearl of the Orient, they're even willing to serve the breaded chicken dishes un-breaded at the diner's request.
As we left, we talked for a moment with the manager who mentioned Pearl can do their catering gluten free, too. It's enough to make you start planning your Chinese New Year party in September. Pearl of the Orient is an excellent find and while I'm looking forward to the opportunity to go back and try something new, I'm really looking forward to those left overs in my fridge....