Rice Bowl Fresh Asian Kitchen delights
- MOLLY ABRAHAM - Detroit News
It’s been a little more than a year since partners Paul Kado and
Freddy Liu put together their attractive 90-seat restaurant on the second level at the Millender Center.
Slowly, word of mouth is getting around about the prepared-to-order Chinese and Thai fare produced in the open kitchen, where a gaggle of chefs in bright red jackets send the house specialty, steaming “rice bowls” — stir-fries of vegetables, meat and rice — and plates of pepper steak, sesame shrimp and Hunan beef to the tables.
What a welcome addition to downtown dining. As one of its regulars says about the Rice Bowl Fresh Asian Kitchen, “This is really a refreshing alternative to the fast food and highly upscale places you generally find in the downtown area.” He’s absolutely right.
The setting, while casual with bare-top tables and paper napkins, offers a much more soothing atmosphere than might be expected. Long and narrow, with natural wicker baskets shading hanging lamps, walls painted a rich red and well-chosen background music, it is something of an oasis for office workers trying to make the most of their lunch hours.
Although the menu has a few Thai selections, including such dishes as panang curry and a very well-prepared version of the peanut-top dish, pad Thai, it is primarily Chinese.
It’s a familiar list and aimed at American tastes, with a gentle spice level. Even the hot-and-sour soup could use a dash of heat, and those who want it can add some in the form of the excellent Huy Fong hot chili sauce.
Only about one of every 10 diners asks for chopsticks, and among the most popular dishes is that time-honored Chinese carry-out standard, patties of egg fooyung topped with scallions and gravy.
Among other recommended dishes are the delicate vegetarian spring rolls that come with housemade mustard and plum sauces, the plump little nuggets of General Tso’s chicken accompanied by fresh broccoli, and the rice bowls that resemble fried rice and include onions, bean sprouts, celery, mushrooms, carrots, green pepper, egg and a choice of chicken, shrimp, steak, tofu or vegetarian-style.
The price structure at Rice Bowl is as appealing as the generous portions of fresh fare. Nothing is more than $9.99, and that includes a choice of steamed rice or fried rice — and, of course, a fortune cookie with the check.
Kado and Liu consider it a prototype and hope to open more. (Their original location in the New Center One Building on West Grand Boulevard is open, but does not have the same emphasis on freshness and atmosphere as the Millender Center version.)
Because the Rice Bowl Fresh Asian Kitchen has no street presence, I’d guess that many downtown Detroiters aren’t even aware of its existence. A nice surprise awaits them.