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Asian Box Brings Fast-Casual Street Food to Town & Country

Entirely gluten-free Vietnamese-inspired restaurant opens today.

Palo Alto seems to be a new magnet for fast, healthy and casual food. On the heels of instant-hit comes a new, Asian offering from the executive chef at Slanted Door: Asian Box.

Opening today at 5 p.m. at , Asian Box is inspired by Asian street food carts, showcasing traditional recipes made with ingredients sourced locally.

Executive Chef Grace Nguyen brings the bright and flavorful tastes of Southeast Asia to a Western locavore clientele, and has done so without any gluten on the menu.

CEO Frank Klein’s vision was to create a dining experience that is “fun, exciting, healthy, and quickly dtam sang, or made to order,” according to an announcement Thursday. Klein will open two more Asian Box locations in the Bay Area in 2012.

“I love Asian cuisine but have always found it challenging to find places offering fresh and authentic menus, especially in the fast-casual sector,” said Klein. “Asian Box evolved from the idea of the kind of restaurant I’d want to eat at and introduce to my family and friends.”

The restaurant’s slogan, “What’s in Your Box?” refers both to the compostable packaging used to serve the food and to the importance, they say, of knowing how the food got to your plate.

“It doesn’t matter if you are in a fine-dining restaurant or a grab-and-go shop,” Klein said. “More and more, people want to know where their food comes from and how it’s being prepared.”

Grace Nguyen’s menu was influenced by her Vietnamese heritage and refined with the help of Chad Newton, Culinary Director for FK Restaurants & Hospitality, which owns Asian Box.

“Quickly served food remains in high demand, but there has been a shift in diner preferences.  They want food that’s raised responsibly, sourced locally and prepared fresh,” Nguyen said. Authenticity is also an important aspect for Nguyen, who learned traditional cooking methods and recipes from her Vietnamese grandmother.

Menu items start at $6.95, and guests create their own “box” by selected from a number of ingredients, similar to the process at .

The meal starts with a choice of Asian Vegetable Salad, Rice Noodles with Mushroom Broth, Brown Rice or White Rice. Then you add a main protein, such as Lemongrass Marinated Pork, Garlic and Soy Glazed Beef, or Coconut Curry Tofu.

Another layer of selections could include wok vegetables, crispy shallots, fresh jalapeño, and more than a dozen other toppings, plus a housemade sauce, such as the Asian Box Tamarind Vinaigrette, Asian Street Dust—a blend of exotic herbs and spices—or the “not for the timid” HotBoxIt sauce, a fiery blend of peppers, peppercorns and chili oils.

Asian Box is the latest addition to Town & Country, where Silicon Valley venture capitalists would not have far to drive.

“The partners chose Palo Alto as the first location for many reasons,” says Klein. “The interest by Venture Capitalists in the concept showed that we had struck a chord. The fast-casual segment is on fire and we felt that Palo Alto, the birthplace of so many creative concepts and the center for education and technology, was the right environment in which to change the way people think about Asian food in the U.S.”

Asian Box was designed in partnership with Rubber Design, and is currently pursuing green restaurant certification from the Green Restaurant Association.

Diana Darcy March 02, 2012 at 05:16 PM
I am so glad to see another restaurant offering gluten-free Asian food in Palo Alto! And this is so much better than other local places -- here we will know that there will be no contamination from dishes with gluten, since there is no gluten at all in the place. Yay!
Aaron Selverston March 02, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Diana, I totally agree. I've been gluten-free for the last month and it's making a world of difference. I actually tried Asian Box a few weeks ago at a preview dinner, and it was fantastic. I think you'll really like it!

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