We always look forward to a trip to the superb Ala Shanghai, in Latham. We're not alone in thinking it's one of the best restaurants in the area. Unfortunately, despite repeated requests something in our dinner last night triggered my allergic reaction to nuts. (Based on timing, I'm almost certain it was something in the steamed spicy wontons, whether a carelessly cleaned pan, a stray nut in the sauce, or perhaps some peanut butter used as a binding agent -- common in vegetarian dumplings, so I always take extra care to ask before ordering.) I thought it was minor, since I was merely uncomfortable for the next hour -- sometimes a very small quantity of a nut product will make itself known without triggering a full-scale reaction. But after I got home, my already-swollen lower lip had attained Mick Jagger proportions, and then it took me several tries to even swallow a Benadryl. Choking to death not being the way I want to go, a trip to the emergency room was necessary, where a pretty frightening situation was averted.
Normally, Ala Shanghai is very conscientious, and we've been there many times without any issue; I'm not sure what happened yesterday. But some restaurant owners and employees don't have a similarly good attitude. Take, for example, hot-chef-of the moment David Chang, and his implicit claim that many customers who make allergies are fakers who are crimping his style. I certainly don't doubt that this happens, and the diners who do it are indirectly putting other people at risk by undermining the credibility of real allergies and shouldn't do it. But allergies are very real problem, and this kind of cavalier attitude can literally get people killed. Not that he needs me to keep up to add to the immense demand, but I would to say that trying out one of the outposts in the sprawling Momofuku empire is a pretty low priority for me.