Where: Dragon Bowl Asian Bistro, 1221 W. 11th Street, 713-426-2750
What $13 gets you: Not being a philistine who asks for spring rolls at a Japanese restaurant.
These noodle-bowl places seem to be popping up everywhere, and there's all pretty similar in terms of both looks and food. The décor: decidedly urban loft. The fare: a hodgepodge of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai, all clumped together under the generic-yet-accurate term “Asian.”
This particular spot is right up the street from my house, and I often forget it's there – that is, until I get burnt out on the various Mexican joints nearby and have a hankering for some veggies.
The B.Y.O.B. (build your own bowl) option for nine bucks is a good way to go. You pick your protein, your vegetables, your starch, your sauce...you get the idea. This time, however, I was trying to maximize my 13 dollars, so I went with pan-fried vegetable rice for eight bucks and miso soup for three. Add in tax and a 50 cent surcharge for to-go, and that's right below the magic number. (Heads up: The prices listed on Dragon Bowl's Web site are a little outdated.)
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The miso soup had more tofu and seaweed than most, and it helped prepare the palate for the richness of the fried rice, which was chockfull of sprouts, mushrooms, peas, broccoli, carrots, green onions and bell peppers. Tasty stuff, and definitely enough for two servings.
Dragon Bowl might not be the most authentic Asian joint in town, but in this crazy postmodern world, it's definitely good enough.
Bonus point: Desert options include a milk chocolate and marshmallow cookie with a crushed fortune cookie crust, also known as a smortune cookie. – Keith Plocek