Updated: Jul 2
The Rice Shop: A full foodie review
Chef Anthony Zappola
So I’ll admit that I came into this interview a little biased. I already knew I was a fan of what Anthony was putting into the food scene but I didn’t know the “why”. To me, his brother restaurant Lox, Stock and Brisket made a lot of sense in the traditional University Heights neighborhood where a Jewish deli style restaurant would be welcomed. The Rice Shop remained a bit more of a mystery to me in terms of location and concept. But I was sold on the food (and you should be too!) and he explained during our time together that the Rice Shop wasn’t for everyone and that was ok. If you love food and care about the quality ingredients, this is the place for you. You would find his location no matter what and his business is brisk with less than a month of service under its belt. Plus, the concept had already debuted at the now defunct Ohio City Galley to rave reviews so he knew he had a winner.
The menu has something for everyone but to truly understand why he chose the ingredients and concept for the Rice Shop, it helps to know this story. Anthony is a local Cleveland boy who spent most of his career around the US honing his craft, working in restaurants in New York, Texas, LA and finally Las Vegas to the tune of multiple accolades celebrating his work. Particularly in Las Vegas, Anthony was the top chef opening up a Mirage property restaurant that launched him into the spotlight more than ever. After several years in Las Vegas, Anthony pursued his passion to own his own restaurant and found a listing on CraigsList (remember those days?) for a Chinese restaurant up for sale. Within a matter of hours, Anthony visited the property and bought it with the dream of turning it into an Italian sandwich shop. But fate intervened…….as a first time business owner and with equipment already in place as an Asian style restaurant, it made more sense to continue on that path. Plus Anthony had a vision. He had been inspired lately by the work of Sean Brock on the PBS show “Mind of a Chef”. This Southern style chef was packing in great ingredients with a home-style feel that Anthony wanted to replicate with an additional twist of…..well, rice. So when you think of the Rice Shop, you can think of his unique concept of a restaurant that celebrates Southern Techniques with an Asian influence. To me, that made a lot of sense and also elevated the menu options because you can see the genius in what he created in each dish. After running the Las Vegas Rice Shop for more than a year to rave reviews and busy crowds, Anthony decided to return home to Cleveland and open up shop here too. The time was right and he felt Cleveland was the best market for his vision of not only the Rice Shop but for Lox, Stock and Brisket too.
Moving right into the good stuff-- the menu.
Mochiko Chicken - the fan favorite so far, this chicken has a deep flavor penetrating through the juicy meat that is sweet yet rich without being heavy. Paired with perfectly cooked broccoli, peanuts and sticky rice, this was hard to put down even when I was full. The portion was perfect for lunch with some leftovers or a full dinner.
Kentucky Fried Fish- Anthony has declared this as his favorite on the menu because you get the crunch of the fried cod paired with the creaminess of the coleslaw and the bite of the jalapenos and hot sauce aioli. For any foodie, this is a perfect mix for the taste buds and it works well on a hot summer day or night.
Steak Fried Rice- This hibachi style fried rice plus tenderloin tips satisfies everyone with excellent quality of meat while also keeping it fairly simple and straightforward. Good ingredients, full flavor and topped with yum yum sauce. I think we are all saying yum to this!
Korean Beef- Anthony took the Southern style method here of braising the beef vs marinating it so you get the taste of a traditional pot roast or short ribs but with the brightness of Asian flavor with the Kimchi sauce. With a bold taste and presentation, this twist on a classic is a great one to try.
BBQ Pork Belly- I mean…..I’m not sure there is much more to say here when you have the title of BBQ Pork Belly. Anthony has already proven his chops through Lox, Stock and Brisket for his excellent preparation of smoked meats so I’ll let you decide for yourself. If you like pork belly (and who doesn’t?), you have to try this dish and mix it with the delightfully chewy rice.
Tuna Poke- I’m seeing this as a menu option more frequently and his take on it is no less than stellar. With the meatiness of his tuna and smooth addition of avocado, he also adds the traditional Japanese spice of Togarashi which includes a spicy red pepper flavor among other things. He finishes it with a wasabi soy vinaigrette to cleanse the palette and keep you craving that next bite.
For the vegetarians, Tofu can be substituted for any protein so you can enjoy all the wonderful medley of flavors in any of these dishes.
So my final words are this….. If you love food and you like what you are reading, I hope you’ll stop by. I certainly enjoyed myself and definitely feel much more in tune with the genius of Anthony Zappola. I look forward to his continued success at the Rice Shop as well as Lox, Stock and Brisket when it opens up at its new location in Van Aiken district in Shaker Heights.
The Rice Shop
13892 Cedar Road
University Heights, OH 44118
Tues - Sat: 12pm to 8pm
Sunday: 3pm to 7 pm