When a place is as hopping as Rice Bowl is on a random Wednesday afternoon, you know you’ve picked a good spot for lunch. The small Bradenton restaurant is located in a strip mall anchored by Bealls, Big Lots and Lowe’s, with a dining room that’s bustling thanks to a workaday crowd that includes folks in polos and khakis and a crowd of young men and women in black scrubs. Many grab seats and settle in for a nosh, while others loiter near the small service window between the sushi bar and the kitchen, from which issues forth a steady stream of to-go orders.
To keep up with the crowd, the service is ultra-efficient. I’m seated at the sushi bar, where at least three different servers stop by to make sure everything is progressing smoothly. Even the sushi chef pops his head over the glass case that holds his fish to make sure my water glass is full. In a hurry? No worry.
The friendly service counts for a lot, but it’s the food that matters most. Rice Bowl offers a generous selection of different sushi rolls and entrées, plus a series of customizable rice bowls. It’s not unlike an Asian Chipotle. Pick a flavoring (spicy bourbon, General Tso’s, Kung Pao, Szechuan and more), a protein (tofu, chicken, shrimp or beef) and a rice (white, brown or fried) and dig in.
A friend recommended a Kung Pao shrimp bowl ($8.95), and it is indeed delicious. Served in a wide, black bowl, it includes a boulder of white rice and a smattering of crispy shrimp, snap peas, carrots, scallions and peanuts—all dunked in a sticky sauce that, despite the little red chili on the menu, isn’t all that spicy. A simple spicy tuna sushi roll ($5.50) on the side makes for an excellent accompaniment. Hunting for a quality lunch in east Bradenton? Go bowling.
Rice Bowl Asian House, 7305 52nd Place E., Bradenton, (941) 758-7973, ricebowlbradenton.com; open 11 a.m.-9:30 Monday-Saturday, noon-8:30 p.m. Sunday