How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bowl
Let’s start with some background context here: I’m a person with a lot of food intolerances. From fructose to gluten to dairy; if something makes food delicious, chances are my body will reject it like the plague. It should then be of note when I say that Rice Workshop is my favourite restaurant. There are no modifiers there, it’s not “good for a fast food place” or “pretty good for an Uber Eats buy”; when I say that I could eat Rice Workshop’s chicken karaage with no sauce and two 63-degree eggs every day, I mean it, because, for a long time, I actually had to do exactly that.
If you’ve read that introduction and are still willing to take my opinion seriously, then it’s probably time I explained exactly why I hold so much reverence for this particular business. However, I would also like to establish one more thing before we begin properly:
Not All Rice Workshops Are Created Equal
This may seem strange to some that are used to every chain store being pretty much identical. See, unlike Mcdonald’s or Hungry Jacks, Rice Workshop has a bit of a flavour-based identity crisis on its hands, and as the leading historical scholar of Rice Workshop’s past, present, and future, it’s up to me to try and explain it.
From what I can gather, more than it being a difference in skill between stores, Rice Workshop actually appears to use different ingredients, especially when it comes to the deep-fried coating of its chicken. As mentioned earlier, I am a person with food intolerances, and when I go to a different restaurant in the same chain, I really don’t expect to have a serious difference in health effects between two of the same meal.
So, Which Rice Workshop Locations Should I Order From?
Now that the Box Hill location has seemingly been lost to us forever (may it rest in delicious, oily peace), there are two main locations I would recommend for anyone aiming to get the “right” Rice Workshop experience. In order of magnificence, they are:
- Rice Workshop Chinatown
There are few chain restaurants that go above and beyond their locational counterparts quite like Rice Workshop Chinatown. As one of the few locations not within a larger complex, this store really makes the most of its space, offering delicious food, friendly staff, and an oddly serene atmosphere upstairs when things quiet down. Not only that, but for some reason, this store just has a fantastic playlist. I don’t know why, but for anyone that hasn’t moved past their 2000s pop punk and emo needs, there will often be something for you. Hot karaage, Hot Topic; what’s not to love?
- Rice Workshop Chadstone
This is your more standard Rice Workshop experience, being as it is within a downstairs food court as one of many food establishments. Often, this leads to a lowering in quality, and while this may be true for some of the other RW locations, Chadstone stands out as rivalling its Chinatown counterpart in food quality, even if the ambience is going to be quite lacking comparatively.
So, Why Are You Just Focusing On the Karaage Rice Bowl?
That’s a good question, nameless reader, and one with quite a simple answer. If you’re someone who requires a low-fodmap meal, then I cannot in good conscience recommend other parts of the Rice Workshop menu. Each time I go in, I get the same order:
- A chicken karaage rice bowl with no sauce and two eggs.
- Two spicy squid skewers (that I also cannot recommend for a weak stomach but I live for the pain)
- A can of unsweetened green tea.
This order has become so ingrained in me that I don’t even need to tell the people at the Chinatown location what I want for them to start preparing it. This is my legacy, and if the old cliche that you are what you eat is true, then I am likely 90% karaage at this point and counting.
What Makes the Chicken Karaage Rice Bowl With Two Eggs & No Sauce So Good?
As someone who has now tried the full gambit of Melbourne’s karaage chicken bowl catalogue, I’ve come up with a bit of an internal grading scale ranking various factors:
Gooeyness – How much does the chicken instantly turn to mush?
Crunchiness – Will there be an audible sound biting into it?
Flavour – How high quality is the chicken? Does it feel like I’m committing a sin to eat it?
The Bland & the Beautiful – This is an overall score for how well a karaage fares when stripped of its sauce. Can it still contend when there’s nothing to hide its quality?
I’m happy to say that Rice Workshop Chinatown’s karaage often hits all the marks. Even stripped of its delicious sauce, the sticky, crunchy chicken has weight and feeling to it that is rarely found in any meal. The flavour of the chicken does not need to be hidden, as it feels like genuine care went into making it. Couple that with two runny 63-degree eggs and rice, and you have yourself a meal that, to this day, I’ve never seen anyone not enjoy.
Are You Doing This to Get the Attention of Rice Workshop As Some Sort of Brand Ambassador?
Yes. Quite frankly, there is no other restaurant that I would dedicate my life, my joy, and my blade to at a moment’s notice. If Rice Workshop ever wants to pay me to get a tattoo of their logo, I will do it, and my partner will/should leave me for doing it. David Loh, owner and founder of our beloved brand, you know where to find me, because it’s at your restaurant.
The Rice Workshop Menu
Teriyaki Chicken – $11.90
Chicken Katsu – $12.50
Signature Beef – $11.90
Chicken Karaage – $12.50
Spicy Pork Belly – $13.90
Fresh Salmon – $14.90
Samon Karaage – $13.90
Original Beef – $12.50
Tempura Prawn – $12.50
Teriyaki Chicken – $12.50
Tempura Prawn & Tempura Veggie – $14.90
Tempura Veggie – $12.50
Katsu – $12.90
Steamed Veggies – $12.50
Chicken Karaage – $12.50
Original Beef Curry – $12.50
Char-Grilled Chicken Curry – $12.50
Tofu Curry – $12.50
Chicken Katsu Curry – $12.90
Chicken Karaage Curry – $12.90
Premium Grilled Bowl
Wagyu – $15.90
Ox Tongue – $16.90
Pork – $14.90
Eel – $17.90
Salmon – $15.90
Pork & Cabbage – $11.90
Kimchi Pork – $11.90
Chicken & Shitake – $11.90
Veggie – $11.90
Wagyu – $12.90