Think inside Rice Box for typical Chinese eats 

Although month-old Rice Box does a brisk takeout and delivery business, its cheerful, comfortable interior does make for a pleasant dining-in experience, as long as whimsical modern furnishings and lighting is your thing. Bright orange and stark white dominates the color scheme while a glowing neon sign lights both the dining room and the sidewalk out front. A long, high bar trolls along one side of the seating area, and booths line another wall. With its floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows, you could mistake the restaurant for an IKEA "living in 500 square feet" display room.

Philly cheese, please: You order at the counter, where a lone order taker/cashier/phone receptionist does a remarkable job of juggling several tasks at once, efficiently and with a smile. It's hard to say no to crab meat and cream cheese wontons ($3.25), the appetizer of the '90s. The crab's more of a hint in Rice Box's version, but with creamy, molten interiors and blistery, crunchy skins, the wontons are perfectly fun little snacks to start the meal.

Egg drop it like it's hot: The wonton soup ($2) of light chicken broth boasts a good number of small, perfectly formed wontons filled with ground chicken and enveloped in delicate wrappers. Egg drop soup ($2) is true to classic form with its super-yellow broth redolent with filmy egg swirls. It's salty and thick with cornstarch -- exactly as good as egg drop soup has always been in my memories. Call it the Chinese-American equivalent of mac and cheese.

Lots of chicken: The entree selection mainly features chicken dishes, with a few beef selections and no pork in sight. Main dishes are offered in platter size, perfect for one, and entree, which, at a dollar and change more, offers a considerably larger portion. Szechuan beef ($6.50, platter size) offers thin slices of steak, broccoli, carrots, onions, mushrooms and bamboo shoots in a brown chili sauce. There's nothing remarkable about the dish, but it's perfectly acceptable, standard Chinese fare.

Mount Saint Tofu: Ma Po Tofu in the entree size ($6.99) is an absolutely enormous mound of soft tofu cubes dressed in a spicy sauce. Usually a bright orange from copious amounts of chili paste and studded with ground pork, Rice Box's version of Ma Po Tofu is brown with fermented bean paste and meatless, or with shreds of chicken.

Rice Box isn't the place to go if you're looking for an extraordinary Chinese meal, but its convenient Midtown location more than makes up for its culinary shortcomings.



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