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Myers + Chang--Tasty but Frightening

My bf and I have lived in the south end for several months but hadn't had a chance to dine at myers + chang yet, so we made a reservation for 8:45pm last night and excitedly walked over. The dining room and bar were both very busy, and we got two ginjo gimlets made by Ramy at the bar while we waited. These were fantastic! Bright, fresh, and a nice balance of lime and ginger. Our table was ready within fifteen minutes and we were seated at one of the prime corner tables (score!). It was a lively crowd at the restaurant, but in a fun way, not an "i-can't-hear-a-word-you-are-saying" way. I asked the server for the shellfish free menu and explained my shellfish allergy, then we got down to business choosing what to order.

The order they arrived in was: scallion pancakes (heavenly, nice and fluffy, never ordering cheap scallion pancakes again), edamame and celery slaw (very fresh with a lovely sweet sesame sauce), braised short rib tacos (double corn tortilla and a nice heat to some perfectly braised pork) and then mama chang's pork dumplings. All I tasted in my first bite of these was a strong lemon flavor and so I asked my bf if his were also very lemony. He said he did not get that at all, so I went for a second bite. As I chewed and swallowed it, I realized the texture was frighteningly similar to shrimp, to which I am allergic. I told my bf, who tried a second dumpling on the plate and found that it was, in fact, the lemon shrimp. We had been served a mixed plate of dumplings, and his first one was pork. We alerted the staff right away and I luckily only experienced minor swelling that was calmed down by my benadryl. The staff continued to check on me and the server and general manager both came over to apologize and see how I was doing. In the end, they comped us a course and dessert, which was a delicious vanilla bean parfait with orange granita.

It's unfortunate that our evening was sidetracked by my allergies, as we had loved everything we had eaten so far into the night, and the replacement pork dumplings that they brought were in fact delicious. I am glad that my allergy to shrimp isn't too severe, as I had the expectation that they would be very careful about cross contamination based upon their nut-free and shellfish-free menus. We will probably return, as the food we ordered was great, but I will have to have other people at the table taste-test each dish for me first. Food allergies can be such a pain.

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Myers + Chang
1145 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

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  1. I have also receieved shrimp dumplings mixed in with the pork. No shelfish allergy here so didnt bother to complain. On a side note the shrimp dumplings always tasted kinda strong like ammonia to me.

    1. Not only are food allergies a pain - they can be life-threatening. My (now adult) son has a very severe allergy to shellfish, and the fact that a restaurant - any restaurant - will do this is terrifying to me. He had a very close call once (before he was prescribed an epi-pen - fortunately the ambulance came fast enough).

      I checked their menu online, and they specifically say that these dumplings are shellfish-free.

      You might consider, for the sake of all who have allegies & opt to visit their restaurant, writing to the manager just so they might take a look at why this happened - and prevent it fr happening again. Seems like they put a lot of work into this restaurant - this should NOT happen.

      Going to tell my son to be extra careful no matter what, when he dines out. Make sure you also carry an epi-pen (or whatever the name is - I'm in a lot of pain right now - knee injury has flared up - so my brain may not be working right), as the severity of allergies can change over time!

      1 Reply
      1. re: threedogs

        Oh, don't worry, I have benadryl and my epi-pen with me at all times! I completely agree that they can be life-threatening, and I'm just glad the dumplings didn't have one of the other kinds of shellfish inside to which I am more allergic.

      2. That's a huge screwup for a place that prides and promotes itself on its sensitivity to dietary issues. I know people for whom that would have meant an ER trip -- not a great way to end a big night out. Very, very scary.

        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

        1 Reply
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          I am glad everything worked out okay. And the last thing I want to do is bash Myers & Chang, b/c I am a neighbor and actually really enjoy the food and atmosphere there. HOWEVER, I had some friends who also had a very similar experience. I wasn't there, so I don't have all the specific details, but I am pretty sure it was shellfish and possibly nuts a member of the party was allergic to, and that person alerted the waitstaff and then they all placed the shellfish- and nut-free order. A few minutes later a steaming plate of something with shellfish appeared. (maybe also the dumplings?) Followed by something with a peanut sauce, maybe? So not only did they screw up by bringing out the incorrect items,but they just happened to be items someone at the table was severely allergic to. When I heard the story, I sort of chalked it up to a fluke, just b/c I know Myers & Chang does offer all these different menus and it is something they pride themselves on....but now, hearing this story a second time makes me wonder just what the QC is like in the back of the house. Allergies ARE serious, and of course it is bad enough if a regular restaurant screws up ---but one promoting sensitivity to allergies and dietary issues --that is pretty much inexcusable in my book. I do not have any real sensitivities, so it's not an issue for me, but if I did, I'm thinking M & C wouldn't exactly be top on my list these days.

          I agree with threedogs --they need to take a serious look at why this happened and put procedures in place to be sure it doesn't again. Or else just get rid of all the specialty menus and don't profess to be something that they aren't....

        2. Wanted to update everybody on the situation: I contacted the restaurant this morning and received a very quick, personal and thoughtful email response later this afternoon from Joanne Chang herself, cc'd to the management team. Basically, it was a perfect storm of a few procedures going awry that, had any one of the others not occurred, would not have resulted in the shrimp dumplings being served to me. She outlined the steps they will take to prevent this situation from occurring again, and I do believe that these measures will be effective. Their thorough response to my situation illustrates that Myers + Chang really does have an interest in serving diners with food allergy and intolerance issues, and I plan to return again in the future.

          13 Replies
          1. re: BlueTrain84

            Thank you for a wonderful and well balanced review as well as a timely and equally well balanced follow up on the occurring! I will look forward to seeing more on CH from you.

            1. re: BlueTrain84

              You are much more forgiving than i would be. Im not buying the "perfect storm" thing.. We have a very small sample of people here and already 3 people have had this "perfect storm" in the past few years its been open.. I have at least one friend who would have most likely died from that dumpling.

              I think a lot of restaurants hop on board the allergy menu thing as if its some new hot trend like "small plates' or something...

              1. re: hargau

                All I can say is they had *better* get their act together, or they will eventually be facing a lawsuit as big as that perfect storm. I just hope this will make them aware before someone really gets hurt - [like dying - sheesh].

                1. re: hargau

                  It sounds like the restaurant handled it perfectly. At the end of the day, it's humans running a restaurant, which means human error will occur.

                  @BlueTrain: Thank goodness you came prepared, and that you're OK. Close call!

                  As far as getting-their-act-together, etc.: Not to imply that it's not scary; it's certainly unfortunate when mistakes occur—especially those that endanger health. But honestly, if you risk *dying* from biting into a shrimp dumpling, why go to a busy place that's in the business of serving shrimp dumplings? It's akin to waltzing out into the intersection just as a truck is barreling through it—with only the comfort that you could sue for a pedestrian-rights violation if the driver fails to stop in time, to protect you.

                    1. re: Gabatta

                      I can understand the argument - there is a shared responsibility. It's up to the diner to communicate dietary needs, the restuarant to deliver to those requirements, and the person who puts the bit into their mouth that it really should be eaten. Occationally, mistakes are made - someone walks off the curb without looking as a driver negotiates traffic (to use the analogy above). The walker may be right as well as hurt. Both the diner and restaurant can work together (although I'm not sure how this would work for the diner ordering that dangerous Japanese fish . . .)

                      This case resolved appropriately IMHO. And I'm also sure the diner knows about the lurking shellfish found in many Asian condiments used in preparing food and reminds the kitchen to ensure they aren't mistakenly used.

                      1. re: alwayscooking

                        I absolutely think that M + C responded in the best way possible. I am completely satisfied with their handling of the situation and I really do think that it will result in an even safer environment for diners with food allergies, so really the net outcome of the incident is a positive. Additionally, alwayscooking is correct--it's a rare person with food allergies who is unaware of potentially hazardous types of cuisine. I think that one would be hard-pressed to find somebody with shellfish allergies who doesn't know its prevalence within Asian cooking.

                        1. re: BlueTrain84

                          I agree - although, to me, the proof will be in their quality control, now that they have been made aware of the problem. Others have stated that they know that this has happened to people before - I don't know if the management was told, and certainly it helps to publicize this through the chow-net. The result may be that M + C might end up the most conscientious restaurant around.

                          For their sake (and that of diners w/allergies, of course), I hope so.

                      1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                        Actually, they chose a restaurant that touts their ability to safely manage customers with allergies. They spent more to go to a restaurant that publicly states that they do not do any cross contamination as opposed to going to a random spot that makes no such claims.

                        1. re: smtucker

                          Absolutely, smtucker! Once more, I don't think people w/allergies should have to board themselves up in a hole in order to, say, not die. Ridiculous.

                          If this is too difficult for a restaurant to handle, then they better stop claiming safety for customers w/allergies. It's not a marketing bandwagon for them to jump on - there is serious consequences if they don't have their management in order.

                        2. re: Jolyon Helterman

                          Yeah, it is nothing like walking in front of a moving truck. It's much more like carefully waiting at a busy intersection for the light to turn red, the "walk" sign to come on, and then being nearly hit by a truck that ran the red light.

                    2. Come to think of it, we were once served shrimp dumplings with the pork ones too. Maybe about a year ago. Joanne was even standing right in the kitchen that hight.

                      I was happy about it, actually, as I like them better ... not even thinking about allergies.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: C. Hamster

                        Sounds like the "perfect Storm" is more like April Showers...

                      2. They should buy you and your BF a round of drinks next time you go there.

                        1. Just saw Myers & Chang changed the shape of the shrimp dumplings, most likely to avoid this mixup in the future.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: BeanTownGolfer

                            They did! Joanne sent me an email with a picture of the new shape of the dumplings a few days ago. I think that this change will really provide an extra layer of safety, as servers and food runners can eyeball the plate and know exactly what's on there.

                            1. re: BlueTrain84

                              You are much more kind than I, I think, BlueTrain84. If I wasn't given, at the very least, as others have mentioned here, a compted meal or round of drinks, then I would have seriously considered emailing her back a photo of a local ER. Or, maybe, to be more blunt, a photo of the biggest ambulance chasing law firm in the area.

                              I mean, it's all well & good that she's *finally* getting a grip on this - but how cheap can someone be? I've been given coupons for free meals just when I've ended up w/a lousy meal I called attention to (that was many years ago - I am usually much quieter in person, and prefer to give the restaurant, as well as people, a wide allowance for not being the best on a particular day.

                              But this is VERY different.

                              Joanne, if you are reading this: people take note of many aspects of a restaurant - and today, it's all spread very quickly online.

                              Please let up know if she's kind (and wise) enough. to. not. be. *cheap*.

                              1. re: threedogs

                                Ah yes the ever growing litigious society. When law suits start happening, restaurants will have no choice but to protect themselves against litigation. At that point restaurants will no longer serve anyone with ANY allergy. I feel bad for people with allergies and it sounds like the restaurant industry is making strides to do what's right, but if I was Joanne, and I was reading your comments I would rethink the wisdom and weigh the pros and cons in serving someone with a food allergy because I could potentially lose my business.

                                P.S. there is an inherant danger of getting a chicken bone in boneless chicken

                                1. re: T.Clark

                                  Well said T.Clark. They are doing the best they can and while there may be a few bad experiences here, what about the fact that they probably server 100 tables a night on weekends. There are no mentions here about all the good experiences from people with food allergies.

                                2. re: threedogs

                                  To be clear, Joanne mentioned in her email that she would like for my bf and I come back to M + C as their guests, anytime that we want. I didn't want to get into specifics of her email because it was written as a personal note to me, not as a document to be distributed publicly, but rest assured that she has offered compensation.

                                  1. re: BlueTrain84

                                    OK, BT84 - and my apologies if I was butting in (and put you on the defensive, too). Then I say she's handling the situation very well.

                                  2. re: threedogs

                                    You would have held out for the freebies? And then implicitly threatened a lawsuit unless you were offered a satisfactory amount of them? That's just super. Really cheapens the core issue here.

                                    I'm going to go way, way out on a limb here and *venture* that neither Joanne Chang nor BlueTrain84 cares a whit about gettin' some free swag from the restaurant—or the negligible cost involved for the restaurant to provide it. Seriously?

                                    That she changed the shape of the dumplings (which, yes, are made inhouse; not many places to buy lemon-spiked shrimp dumplings OTC, methinks...), shared the new strategy with the person involved, and has been proactive and forthcoming about addressing the issue, shows, to me at least, that she's not trying to brush it under the rug. I'd imagine that retraining staff on the new shape of the dumplings alone cost more than the "comped drinks" you're implying she's being too cheap offer.

                                    1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                      Good lord - you are reading far too much into my statement. Perhaps I was a bit too rude in my comments, but this is something that is *very* serious to me, since, yeah, my son almost died from a reaction to shellfish. While that was something that was entirely his fault, he does eat out - I know too well that this could happen to him, and it scares the living daylight out of me. So I might just react to this in a bit too strong a manner. I admit that.

                                      I appreciate how she's handled the situation, and I apologize if my statement was out of line. One also shouldn't post comments in a bad mood.

                                      However, you are also out of line in implying that my motive was, in a sense, to 'get freebies'. (Edit: when re-reading what I posted I understand your reaction).

                                      Maybe it's my cultural heritage, maybe it's my age, but to me, it would be insulting for if an offer wasn't made. One shouldn't accept the offer - it's just wrong - but so is not having the offer made. It's the same as an insult - but I know better, should know better - to realize this is not the same for everyone.

                                      Edit: I reread my previous post and I must admit that I sound as nasty (b*tchy??) as I've been feeling lately. Again, I really apologize for this. Really has nothing to do w/the topic - I am not too proud to admit I shouldn't have posted this. Again, my apologies to Joanne Chang for my being just plain rude.

                                      1. re: threedogs

                                        Thank you for clarifying; apologies for reading it wrong.

                                        1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                          Thanks, Jolyon. No need for you to apologize. When I re-read it, it came to light that the author of that posting (me) actually has a bad case of the Poor-Me's. No excuse, but I've excruciating knee pain for a while, which keeps me fr doing stuff I want to do, which is more frustrating than the actual pain - hence, the result: nasty person! Didn't even realize it until I read what I wrote. Not much to do w/the subject at hand, except I've lost way too many loved ones recently, and I guess the thought of my son getting seriously hurt (I should say, again..) - well, it triggered my b*tchy-ness, and butting in where it's none of my concern. Not many restaurants help customers who have allergies like they do - I can't even imagine the work involved w/running a restaurant w/out concern for problems like this.

                              2. For that, I think they should have comped your entire meal. You could have had a severe reaction. I also have a shellfish allergy and I always am worried about dining in Asian restaurants, as menus tend to be seafood-heavy and shellfish can be in sauce, etc. without my knowledge. I also was served shrimp dumplings by accident once in a Chinese restaurant and I don't want to repeat that! Now I have someone taste my order first whenever I am unsure.

                                1. For the number of mixups people are posting about - it sounds like these are not made in-house (maybe getting mix bags of them?) How else can this happen? It doesn't make sense.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: BBer

                                    Could have been made in house. Obviously, they'd have to be made ahead of time. Would think that the storing of them could have contributed to their confusion - along with some serious BOH management issues. I don't know...

                                    1. re: threedogs

                                      It seems that in restaurants as in air traffic control and running hospitals, the best way to end dangerous human error is to change the system that allowed the error, in this case identically shaped shrimp and pork dumplings. To me, changing the shape of the shrimp dumpling means that it will be very hard for this particular human error to recur.

                                    2. I have had nothing but good meals at M&C. That said, her meal should have been fully comped. Better a $60 meal than a $6000 casket.