Restaurants are hit and miss it seems. One day you find a great restaurant that works well for a gluten free, dairy free diet, and the next day you try to find a new restaurant of the same type, only to find something was not as you expected.

Indian restaurants have worked well for us recently as have Thai restaurants. Both can have their difficulties and challenges. I just wrote about trying Juliano’s restaurant here in LA, but let me back up and tell you about the day before.

We left San Diego and headed for LA, hoping we could get to Juliano’s Planet Raw before lunch time. Well traffic in LA on a Sunday was slowing us down so we were getting hungry and were still an hour away from the destination according to our GPS. Since Indian food has been a hit for us lately and the buffets often have some vegan options without gluten, we thought we’d look for the nearest Indian restaurant. Thai would work too, if there weren’t any good Indian ones close.

After calling a few restaurants and even glancing at the minimal options at one buffet, we found a restaurant with a lunch buffet that had lots of selection.

Even though we’ve often had Indian food, it’s always good to verify anything that might be in question to make sure of the ingredients in a new restaurant. There were several vegetarian dishes, so we asked which had dairy. That eliminated a few of the options, but surprisingly even the Palak, the spinach dish, had cream in it. Sometimes it will have the indian cheese, paneer, and we eat around that, but normally it does not have any cream. They do sometimes use Ghee, which is clarified butter, basically the oil which is not what we’d like, but is more tolerable from an allergy point of view, since the fat does not have the dairy proteins. We also asked what the pakoras were made from. They are normally made with vegetables and gram flour (garbanzo flour). This is a gluten free fried treat. It reminds us of some of the flour fried products made with white wheat flour, that we sometimes miss having. Okay, so for health we should probably not overdo it, but after needing to eat so much pure and simple food, we like to have a treat of the fried pakoras when we get an opportunity.

NOTE: When we were trying to avoid every bit of cross-contamination from gluten, we would probably avoid eating at Indian restaurants since they do fry wheat products in the same oil generally, and occasionally make the naan themselves which might put flour in the air, on counters, etc. making cross contamination possible. At the moment we are trying our best to avoid gluten, but not being that particular as to worry about it being fried in oil that had a gluten item fried in it. When we tried to be that careful, we didn’t see any big improvement, so it does not seem to be worth our effort at this time. We may test the cross-contamination idea out again some time in the future to see if we can notice improvement. For now we are trying to just improve general digestion, thinking that has shown us the most improvement for our particular health issues.

So far the buffet looked good enough. We filled our plates and even got some of the carrot dessert. Before learning which dishes had dairy, I had served a small amount onto my plate, so I decided to have a little bit of it anyway. I really wanted the spinach dish, but with the dairy, I couldn’t feel comfortable having very much of it.

Okay, I probably shouldn’t have any at all, but I did. I don’t get any immediate symptoms, but I think staying off the dairy has improved my cat allergies and I am so grateful that I really don’t want to go back to eating dairy and make my asthma and allergies get worse. Besides, with evidence that animal products relate to some diseases, we do try to avoid them in general.

Well, the dairy items we only ate in a tiny taste size amount. Then the dahl seemed to be undercooked. It tasted the same as at a previous restaurant and had the same flavorless ginger cut in the same rectangular shape that made me think it was a canned dahl, not freshly made. The potato dish was tasty but the potatoes were too firm. I got nervous about eating too much undercooked starch. After all, starch is harder on the digestion even when well cooked, but undercooked is even worse. So as I finished my meal I found myself not satisfied with just about all the options. Only have a little carrot since I don’t want too much sugar. Only have a little undercooked dahl and potato dish. Only have a small taste of the spinach or other dairy dish. The pakoras were pretty good, but different than usual, made with potatoes into little patties. There was a yellow colored rice dish that had the cheap veggies that you get from frozen, you know the kind… peas, corn, dry lima beans, and carrots (in those little square shapes). The veggies that were not appealing as a child were now in the rice dish that was a little dry. The only other vegetarian dish was Manchurian Vegetables. Manchurian sounds Chinese to me. Chinese sounds like MSG. That sauce looks like it could really have some MSG/preservative issues with it. Just stay away from that one. That is not worth the MSG risk.

Do I sound too picky? Well, I am wondering if maybe I have some great hidden talent in food tasting. I would love to try out some really great restaurants to tell them if their food was good. But probably not too many who want someone gluten and dairy intolerant who’s vegetarian to try their food. Maybe it’s just that I can actually tell when they cut corners, buy cheap food, and lower quality.

Not everyone may notice, but I really love and appreciate really good quality. Especially something simple, like just make sure that beans and starches are thoroughly cooked. That will make them MUCH tastier, and MUCH more digestible. Surely a restaurant could make it their goal to make sure those items were cooked.  Do you like undercooked beans or firm potatoes?

Well, we left feeling a little disappointed. We often get really great, freshly made Indian dishes, but here we felt they were not that great. Well, they were okay. I ate the best parts of some of the dishes, and left the firm potatoes on the plate. I don’t like leaving food on my plate, but better to not over stuff and not to eat raw potatoes.

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