Monday, August 15, 2011

Restaurant Review: Pandan Room (Hackettstown, NJ)

Saturday night I met an old friend of mine for dinner at the Pandan Room (100 East Moore Street, Hackettstown, NJ 07840).  I had expected your standard Asian restaurant and boy was I wrong. 
Pandan Room in Hackettstown, NJ

I know on their website, that they flag Gluten Free menu items with a G so I asked the the maitre 'd if they had a separate gluten free menu (a la Bonefish) and he told me that all the menus were flagged.  

We were seated and I began to suspect that something was terribly right at this restaurant.  Our waiter arrived seconds later and already knew that I needed a gluten free meal.  I informed him that I was dairy free as well and he assured me that this wouldn't be a problem.  He had barely left with our drink order when the chef arrived and informed me that he didn't have any milk anywhere in the restaurant at all, and that he was happy to swap out oil for butter in the few spots they used it. (That left maybe two dishes with cheese that I couldn't have but on a menu with over 30 entrees that really didn't matter!)

Gluten Free / Dairy Free Pandan Chicken
with Sweet and Sour Cilantro Sauce

The menu does indeed flag all gluten free dishes, as well as any that are "vegetarian suitable".  What the heck does that mean?  It means that they can substitute out the meat and prepare the dish with tofu instead.  It was a little confusing that items that were both gluten free and vegetarian suitable either had a V/G or a VG (or occasionally a VG/G)!  Any item where the level of spice can be altered is flagged with a symbol. 

I began to peruse the menu and this is were I ran into trouble.  You see a third of the appetizers, all four soups, more than half of the salads, most of the sides, and roughly 90% of the entrees were all flagged Gluten Free!  Usually when I go out to eat, between gluten and dairy, there are only one or two items to choose from.  I haven't had a choice of that many entrees since I first began following a gluten free diet six years ago! 

Gluten Free/Dairy Free Masaman Curry Duck at Pandan Room
The cuisine is Thai/Indonesian and I decided on the Masaman Curry Duck (half duck with mixed vegetables and rice in a curry sauce).  My buddy ordered the Vietnamese Pork Chops (marinated with molasses served over a bed of vermicelli rice noodles) which were also gluten free (he doesn't follow a gluten free diet, but since most of the entrees are gluten free it's not surprising).  We also ordered an appetizer of Pandan Chicken (thick chicken breast fingers fried and tied with a Pandan leaf) with sweet and sour cilantro sauce.  They brought us a plate of puffed tapioca 'chips' with a garlic dipping sauce to snack on while we waited.

I was absolutely blown away!  The puffed tapioca was a nice touch, the appetizer was fine, but my entree stole the show.  What a far cry from plain grilled chicken and a baked potato!

Gluten Free/Dairy Free Vietnamese Pork Chops
over Vermicelli Rice Noodles at Pandan Room
Sadly, I can't report on the dessert menu.  By the time we were finished with dinner (for me 1/2 finished, I had the other half Sunday night for dinner) neither of us could even think about having another bite and we left without perusing the dessert menu.  (There are no flags of G on the online dessert menu.)

Hackettstown is a bit of a drive for me but with gluten free food this good it is one I'll be making much more often!  If you've never been to the Pandan Room I highly recommend that you try it, just leave extra time to peruse the menu and all the wonderful gluten free options!

Other Restaurant Reviews:

Restaurant Review: La Riviera Trattoria (Clifton, NJ)

Restaurant Review: Janice A Bistro (Hohokus, NJ)

Pandan Room Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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