On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," John Peterson joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss The Rice Box. Described as "a Chinese takeout bar from the future," The Rice Box started life as a food truck in 2011; now, Peterson is preparing to open his third restaurant in River Oaks.
As Peterson explains, the restaurant has evolved as it has grown. In the early days, The Rice Box used sauces to mimic the distinctive flavors imparted by a wok; now, all of its dishes are cooked in them. Peterson also shows respect for the family-owned businesses that inspired his restaurants by making all of his sauces from scratch and sourcing high-quality ingredients such as a recent switch to using beef from Texas purveyor 44 Farms. That desire to make continual improvements has contributed to The Rice Box's success.
"Where I want to go is making the best possible Chinese food I can," Peterson says. "It's not reinventing any wheel, but if someone comes in and they say, 'I want Mongolian beef,' I'm going to make the best damn Mongolian beef I can — to the best of my knowledge, to the best of the skill set we have in our organization. If it's not good enough now, we'll make it better tomorrow ... I want to carry the best possible quality, within my means, of beef and product and style."
Peterson also shares some of the experiences that shaped his passion for Chinese food, the sci-fi influences on The Rice Box's design, and the potential for a fourth location.
Prior to the interview, Avondale Food & Wine owner Mary Clarkson joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: Houston's record-setting number of James Beard Award semifinalist nominations, Austin burger joint P. Terry's plans to open in Houston, the recent opening of a new Slowpokes location near Levy Park, and the renovations at Uptown Sushi. In the restaurants of the week segment, the hosts share their recent experience dining at Nancy's Hustle, which is nominated for five different categories in the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards.