Rice Box (located off University) recently opened to much excitement among those who had attended school near Florence. Apparently, the first location is much beloved. Naturally, the hubby and I were curious about the hoopla, so we popped in for dinner on a Friday night.
We were seated promptly, and took in the decor as we studied the menu. Dark wood tables contrasted with orangey walls, and the artwork ran to a geisha theme, including the curtain which separated off the bathrooms. The entry area we had walked through featured (fake) leafy stalks of bamboo in lieu of window coverings and a couple of large vases.
When our server asked for drink orders, I inquired about the “Japanese sodas” listed under beverages and selected a strawberry one. I had no idea what I had just ordered, but I figured it was an opportunity not to be missed. A few minutes later she returned to take our dinner orders, drinks in hand. I selected the coconut chicken with fried rice and while the hubby ordered a spicy tuna roll and chicken lo mein, I turned my attention to reading the operating instructions for the bottle.
Instead of a familiar screw or pop top, the bottle was stopped with a glass marble. To dislodge the marble, you first had to remove a plastic overcap and pop out the center to use as a tool. This center piece was placed over the marble and pushed in toward the beverage. The design of the bottle was such that it caught the marble in the upper half. The images above show the bottle as delivered and after opening and pouring, with all the bits of the lid. The smaller piece up front is the “tool”. Be forewarned, it takes a fair bit of strength to break the vacuum holding the marble in place. (I enlisted the hubby.)
As for the soda itself? It was lovely. Much lighter than American sodas, deliciously fizzy with a flavor like that of hard strawberry candies.
I was still figuring out how to work my soda when my husband’s sushi appeared.
It was a simple presentation, the spicy sauce was mixed into the interior of the rolls instead of being used as a garnish. The hubby declared it “slightly better than average” and “pretty good”.
As he finished off his sushi, my coconut chicken arrived (shown at the top of this post), almost immediately followed by my husband’s chicken lo mein. The gap was just enough that I was wondering where the lo mein was when it showed up.
The coconut chicken was carefully plated with 4 pieces of steamed broccoli arranged at the corners of the plate for garnish. Each piece of chicken was fried, the coating softened by the brownish sauce which seemed, by both texture and flavor, to be mainly honey. Tasted on the chicken there was a subtle coconut flavor. Sampled by itself, the flavor was strongly honey, which made me wonder if the chicken had been fried in coconut oil. Small pieces of coconut lent a bit of festivity to the dish.
My meal included a pork egg roll and my selected rice (in this case, fried). The egg roll had a thick enough wrapper that the outside was crinkly while the interior was still chewy. The filling was comprised of cabbage, carrots and pork. The rice featured small grains, some snapped to still smaller pieces, which were a bit firm, giving an overall crumbly texture. There were bits of eggs mixed in with the rice but no vegetables.
The hubby reported that his lo mein was “very cleanly done” and not overly salty.
As we were finishing our meal our server stopped by to ask if I would like more water. My confused look must have betrayed the fact that I hadn’t been drinking water because despite my response of “Water would be great, thanks!”, when she next returned it was to bring the check and a single fortune cookie, no water in sight. I was further confused as to why a single fortune cookie was brought for two people–should we break it wishbone style to determine who the fortune belongs to?
Rice Box absolutely nails the ambiance. With no distracting tvs and a polished appearance, it’s a nice medium between the swanky (and expensive) sushi bars and the quick grab and go take out Chinese places. Their menu, covering Chinese, Hibachi, and sushi will have something that appeals to most everyone. The food however, is…fine. I wouldn’t object to returning (and the Japanese sodas are a pretty big draw for me) but it won’t be my first choice when I’m craving Chinese food.
Total for the meal: $25.52 (Included one dinner, one entree, one sushi roll, one regular soda, and one Japanese soda)
View Larger Map