Friday, May 18, 2012

Oga's in Natick -- Delicious, But Be Wary of the Staff

Since I've lived in Natick, Oga's on Route 9 has been one of my favorite restaurants. I always mocked it, seeing as it's located in a Blockbuster plaza, but when I found out that the Japanese Red Sox players were going there to eat, I knew it must be something special. It's beyond special. It's literally one of the best restaurants I've ever been to, anywhere. The spicy tuna tostada (spicy tuna served on a "tostada" of rice wrapped in seaweed pounded flat then tempura fried) and the gindara saikyo-yaki (broiled cod marinated in miso and sake) are two of the best dishes I've ever had. The gindara saikyo-yaki is also gluten free!

However, I hadn't gone since my celiac diagnosis. I am always a little wary of places where the staff doesn't speak English well, because it's hard to translate to them what "gluten" is. This is an example of how some places just don't get it.

I went with my siblings there, and explained that two of us (my brother also has celiac) cannot have gluten. The server brought over gluten-free soy sauce for us, which is always a good start. She said that the chefs recommended we avoid the rolls and stick to the straight up fish, just to be safe. We started off with the sashimi platter, which was beautiful. White tuna, mackerel, salmon, oysters, octopus, etc. However, it came drizzled with a ponzu sauce. I asked the server if there was regular soy sauce in the ponzu, and she said "yes." So I said, "I told you, I cannot have gluten, so I need this remade." Her response? "Well, can't you just eat around it?"

No. I cannot eat around it. It took all of my self control to not lose it on her right then and there. I said, "No, even if I eat a little, I will become very sick. Can I have this made again without the sauce?" At that point, she got a little hesitant, and says "But we already made this one." I don't know if maybe she thought she was going to get in trouble with the chef or management. Either way, I asked her to go find out if "another one could be made," and she left the plate of sashimi on our table while she went to go find out. For at least five minutes. We stared at it, wishing we could eat it, because we were starving. She finally came back and took the plate away and brought back a clean plate with no ponzu drizzled on the sashimi.

The rest of the meal was fine, but I was beyond furious at the gall of saying to someone "Well, can't you just eat around it?" In retrospect, I really should have asked to speak to the manager. I generally avoid it, as someone who worked in the food industry and understand that mistakes can be made. But if nothing else, this girl needed to be trained on food allergies, and it's clear that she wasn't. I just didn't want to raise a fuss because I want to keep going back for the gindara saikyo-yaki. So do I recommend this restaurant? Yes, the food is always delicious there. It's very legit Japanese food, and the chefs are incredibly creative and consistent. However, BE CAREFUL if you have food allergies. The staff is clearly not trained in dealing with them. Normally, I've had great service at Oga's. This was the first time it was this bad, and it makes me a little scared to go back.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Zaftig's = Wonderful

I have been TERRIBLE about keeping up with the blog, and I am sorry!! I went into tech week for my play and things went downhill from there in terms of time management, so blogging just wasn't going to happen. No excuses, I know.

But I'm back! And I have lots to tell you, starting with great news -- Zaftig's now carries gluten free bagels and buns! I had a wonderful gravlax plate with a toasted gluten free bagel, and it was everything I dreamed of and more. I really respect that they understand what celiac disease is to begin with, and even considers it right down to the vinegars used. Many restaurants I've been to don't seem to understand how sensitive some of us are, and the dire consequences if we ingest even the tiniest bit. There was a server at a nice restaurant, one of my favorites, who said "well.. can't you eat around it?" More on that in another blog post, but needless to say, I was furious. No, I can't just eat around it! Yeesh. I can't blame the restaurant for bad service, but it makes me not trust the kitchen if this is the idiot who's taking my order.

It's hard to trust restaurants to begin with. I was recently in Orlando for a work event, and I got contaminated by the Hilton Orlando, even though the server had spoken to the chef and everyone seemed to be well-educated on celiac disease. I had the shrimp and grits with chorizo... well, the chorizo (I'm guessing) wasn't gluten free, as I learned a few hours later while I curled up on the bathroom floor puking my guts out. It was the typical "I've been contaminated" reaction, and it ruined my trip. My boss made up for it by taking us to Disney World... more on that in a later blog, too! Needless to say, Disney is quite possibly the greatest place in the world when it comes to food allergies.

Sorry to tease two very exciting future blog posts, but I promise to write them up soon!