Plate to Plate: Asian-style steak plates face off
One of my all-time favorite meals is a rice plate. The varying protein options, sides and sauces make for a highly customizable meal catered to many different preferences. Every restaurant has its own rendering on the traditional concept, creating unique flavor profiles from different seasonings and cooking styles. Naturally, I had to compare two Asian-style steak rice plates around Rice campus.
Rice Box, known for its Chinese-style takeout plates, recently opened a location in Rice Village, just a short walk from campus. Their pepper steak plate comes with standard vegetables, white rice and an included chicken egg roll for $14.99. Substituting the meat, adjusting spice level and changing the rice and egg roll choices are allowed. Some extra add-ons like noodles or broccoli have a small upcharge.
When the plate arrived, the sheer amount of food on the tray was instantly noticeable. For its price, the dish is a fairly decent value, as portion sizes are above average. However, despite the good value, the food was comparatively disappointing. Unfortunately, the cuts of steak were tough and inconsistent in size, while the stirfry sauce drenched the steak and vegetables, resulting in a hot tub-like situation. The meat’s flavor profile was indeed peppery but also surprisingly rich from the soy-based sauce, which made the dish feel heavy and hard to finish. Normally in a rich sauce scenario, the vegetables and rice can cut through the grease, but this was not the case since the peppers and carrots were lathered in the sauce as well. In terms of sides, the full takeout carton of rice was a nice addition as well as the egg roll; however, they were not particularly flavorful or noteworthy. I left Rice Box feeling quite unsatisfied in terms of food, but the modern video game-influenced decor was enjoyable.
The next restaurant I headed to was Lúa Viet Kitchen in Montrose, which is about a 12-minute drive from campus. Offering Vietnamese dishes such as beef pho and pork vermicelli bowls, Lúa Viet Kitchen is slightly more expensive and charged $16.59 for a Shaking Beef Bo Lua Lac. The wait time was a bit longer than Rice Box, and the portion sizes were also smaller. However, all the food was freshly prepared from scratch and the quality was visibly better. The plate included shaking beef (seared tenderloin) with bell peppers and onions, a side of jasmine rice and a watercress salad. The beef was cooked perfectly in bite-sized pieces and was covered with an appropriate amount of Asian-style steak sauce. Dipped in the side of house-made lime vinaigrette, the beef was mouthwatering; it contrasted sweet and sour flavors as well as warm and cold sensations. The bell peppers, onions and garlic were also quite delicious in the vinaigrette.
To my surprise, the initially boring salad was just as good as the meat. The cherry tomatoes, watercress and spring mix made for a refreshing bite, especially with its lightly dressed and sweet vinaigrette. Everything on the plate seemed to balance and complement each other, which made for a harmonious dining experience. The ambiance was also modern but less experimental compared to Rice Box.
Overall, Lúa Viet is the clear winner for me. For only a $1.60 price difference, it is worth the extra money and trip. All the components were outstanding, and I highly recommend visiting the restaurant for a Vietnamese food fix. The shaking beef plate was memorable and delicious, with no faults other than the smaller portion size.
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