It is a rare occasion these days that I get to have lunch with a bandmate. Life gets in the way, as they say, and some of us end up taking jobs that eat up a lot of time during the day. But this week I was fortunate Kelley McKee had a little time off from his office duties and could save a little of that time for me.
When I got word that the dobro-playing madman was in town and off work early, I coerced him into stopping by the house. We were prepping for a gig with The Hackensaw Boys at The Merry Widow this past weekend (it went swimmingly, thanks for asking), so Kelley took his spot on my couch to discuss setlist strategies (something we never do) and trade new songs we’d written, none of which were simple enough to play that evening without a full band rehearsal.
But the gab session was productive. Historically in our conversations there is a point where talk of music turns to food. We have two gears. One minute it’s Scheerhorn resophonic machines and how well my trusty old Martin HD-28 has aged, and the next minute it’s what I ate at Mary Mahoney’s the other night. Then he’s back to hinting I should sell him my D-18VMS, and I’m hinting we should just go to lunch instead. My treat. Those are the two magic words, aren’t they?
It’s been quite a while since the little fellow went on a review with me. At 140 pounds, Kelley had me questioning whether he was eating at all. I was about to force some groceries down his neck. But it just wasn’t right for us to go as a duo, so I reached out to Ashley to brighten our meal with a much-needed feminine perspective.
Our mark for the day was Rice Asian Grill, located at the corner of Azalea and Government in the Skyline Shopping Center. This would be my second visit, and I can tell you the menu, despite the pages and pages, is well executed. There are those who keep this restaurant at the top of their list, and I see no reason for them not to.
Rice can best be described as Asian fusion with sushi and a heavy Thai influence. Open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., you cannot say you missed it because of your schedule.
We arrived before Ashley, who has been dealing with all of the Nappie voting and deserves some time away from the office herself. We appreciate the massive voter turnout, but it does make things a bit hectic.
To ensure sustenance at its quickest, we ordered Summer Rolls ($5.95). With a nod to the Vietnamese cuisine I love so dearly, these were a great example. The dish came with four rolls loaded with noodles and shrimp without going overboard on the greenery. The peanut sauce was a little sweet, which balances out with a touch of extra hot sauce.
Ash suggested a Spicy Tuna Tower ($12.95), taking the words right out of my mouth. It’s time to exercise those chopstick skills when this monster hits the table. This layer of rice is stacked with tuna and avocado and is just spicy enough for a quick lunch. I could have a roll and a tower to myself and be content.
Kelley ordered from the bottom of the lunch menu and found Thai BBQ Chicken ($9.95) to be just what he needed. Along with shrimp fried rice, the classic barbecue sauce was on a perfectly cooked chicken that was juicy all the way through. It came with a side of sweet chili sauce that he used as a dipping sauce for his spring rolls.
For Ashley, curry was the dish. Her lunch special of Yellow Curry with shrimp ($8.95) added a glow to the table with the rich coconut flavor smothering the onions, carrots and potatoes. It almost made me rethink my order.
Pad Cashew with shrimp ($8.95) was lunch for me. I am a total sucker for stir-fry with onions, carrots, bell peppers and cashews. Add to that a light sauce and I flash back to my favorite Thai restaurant in Dana Point called Thai This! This dish was very similar in preparation and quality to one I used to order with regularity there.
Not only did our lunch entrees come with fantastic spring rolls with sweet chili dipping sauce, we were also treated to a choice of soup. Kelley almost got the miso but I suggested he try the Tom Yum Chicken. Ashley and I were on the same page with the sweet coconut flavor of the Tom Ka Chicken. It was hard not to enjoy the lightly spiced soup, though I usually have it with shrimp.
For those who aren’t crazy about soup there is the option of the ginger salad.
No dessert for us this day. We couldn’t finish what we’d ordered. In the parking lot I wished Ashley luck as she went back to the grindstone of dealing with our busiest time of year, while Kelley and I headed to my house for a little more picking.
I told you we only have two gears, maybe three when no one else is listening. Speaking of Kelley: If you’re listening, find your own guitar. I’m keeping this one.
Rice Asian Grill
3964 Government Blvd.