My friend Queen of Cheap Eats and I met for dinner one Friday night to try out a new restaurant. Thanks to poor time management on my part, commute traffic, and a wrong turn, I ended up being 30 minutes late - yeah, I suck. Fortunately she bore with me and amused herself by checking out other restaurants on the same street. some of which have quite a high turnover so we have some new places to try in the future as well.
Despite my lateness, we entered around 6:30 and it was sparsely populated. Not a good sign but they're also on "restaurant row" with a lot of competition so it takes time for a new place to catch on. I don't know how long they've been open at that location but apparently they're a (small) chain with 3 locations in the Northern California (Palo Alto, Mountain View, and San Francisco) and 2 in Southern California (Burbank and downtown LA).
Box with chicken
Asian Box has a similar premise to VN Grill. You build your "box" with a starch (rice or noodles) or a salad, a protein (chicken, beef, pork, tofu, or shrimp), toppings (bean sprouts, pickled vegetables, peanuts, herbs, and the like), then pick your sauce - tamarind vinaigrette, their own housemade sriracha, no-oil fish sauce, a dry rub, hot sauce or peanut sauce. If that's too much decisionmaking for you, they also have "house favorites" that pre-determine the boxes, no substitutions.
I'm a build-my-own sort of girl so I eschewed the normal menu offerings and went with their daily special of Asian pork ribs as my protein. I also flung caution to the winds and paid an extra 95 cents for the caramel egg because Queen said the yelp reviewers spoke favorably of it. I asked the counter person what a caramel egg was and she said they boil it in some kind of caramel sauce. That sounded good so I forked over the extra 95 cents.
Caramel Egg - $.95 extra
In the interest of candor, however, I have to say that while the hard-boiled egg was good and perfectly hard-boiled, I'm afraid it's just an egg. The brown coating on the outside white of the egg tasted more like it was boiled in soy sauce rather than caramel as it was more salty than sweet. It wasn't bad and it was a cheap experiment but I didn't think it was all that. Unless you've a passion for eggs, save your 95 cents. Overall, though, the prices were reasonable and the food was good. The build-your-boxes were in the $8-$9 range, depending on your choice of protein and the portions were reasonable to sizable, depending on your appetite. The house-determined boxes are a bit fancier and range from $8-$13. If you've never been to an Asian Box before, I recommend giving them a try. If I worked in the area, I could see becoming a lunchtime regular whenever I wanted Asian food. They have a lot of competition on that street alone though so I hope they make it.