Ricebox: Authentic Cantonese BBQ So Good They’re Selling Out Daily
The Spring Arcade is the heart of the Historic Core, a heart which is growing rapidly with delicious food options for all. The latest addition is Ricebox, a Cantonese barbecue joint that is quickly selling out of food daily and with reason. Wife and husband duo, Lydia and Leo Lee opened up what can only be described as- home, for Hong Kong culture and cuisine.
The idea for Ricebox came from Lydia’s childhood memories of growing up in her grandpa’s Cantonese BBQ restaurant, stories that inspired Leo’s concept for the menu. From Hong Kong to Vancouver and later Southern California, Lydia’s family recipe was passed down to her from generations. Leo lived most of his life in Mexicali, working for his parent’s Chinese restaurant from a young age inspired him to gain top chef training from the Culinary Institute of America. Over the course of two years, he absorbed classic French culinary techniques. His expertise combined with Lydia’s vision, and a great amount of passion, is what makes Ricebox an instant hit.
Leo’s careful curation of the menu was put into practice months before opening for absolute perfection. You can BYOB (Build Your Own Box) with meat options, vegetables, rice, and a few other extras, or you could trust the experts. Leo put together 5 different boxes including different meats and a Mapo Eggplant option for vegans. They also offer traditional Hong Kong Bao which, having them for the first time I can attest, are delicious almond milk buns filled with their signature meat Char Siu. For now, they’re enjoying the fame brought to them by their signature OG Char Siu and Porchetta Crackling boxes, which sell out every day. However, the team does plan on expanding the menu by adding more hits and dessert.
There are a number of things that set Ricebox apart from the competition: the first one being the quality of meats they use. Leo and Lydia are strictly against adding MSG to their food, the reason being Leo’s culinary training he explained, “Using MSG is not what I was taught to do to add flavor or taste to a meal. It’s not a technique and it’s a little like cheating. Our concept is also our movement, which is to focus on better quality, better ingredients and using the right spices.” So, Leo uses all non-antibiotic meats, organic chickens, and locally sourced vegetables to add layers of flavor and depth of taste to the menu.
The second difference is the way they serve their food, it’s moderately quick and very casual, but everything is made by the hour to guarantee freshness. Ricebox is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday. The last factor is that Ricebox isn’t in Chinatown, they came to the heart of the Historic Core because they didn’t see their rich culture represented in this area of Downtown, it seems it was much needed considering they sell out almost every day.
Their biggest victory so far has been the approval of the community members that know Cantonese cuisine. Their two thumbs up authenticate that Lydia and Leo are doing it justice, to them that makes it all worth it.
Written by Mariana Ramos | Photography by Rebekah Lemire