San Francisco-based FK Restaurants & Hospitality will debut its fast casual Asian Box concept in Palo Alto, Calif., this month. The restaurant, inspired by Asian street food carts, will showcase traditional cooking methods and recipes made with fresh and local ingredients.
Under the direction of executive chef Grace Nguyen — formerly of Charles Phan’s acclaimed Slanted Door and Out The Door — Asian Box menu items fuse Western locavore cuisine with the colorful, flavorful foods found throughout Southeast Asia. Additionally, Asian Box’s menu and facility are completely gluten-free and made to order.
Bringing influences from her Vietnamese heritage to the table, Nguyen worked with FK's culinary director Chad Newton to craft a menu that focuses on flavor and fresh ingredients with fast execution.
“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 also is an important aspect for Nguyen, who learned traditional cooking methods and recipes from her Vietnamese grandmother.
Asian Box’s approach is summed up in its tagline: “What’s in Your Box?” These four words refer to the compostable packaging in which the cuisine is served, and also reference the importance of knowing how the food gets to the plate.
“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 CEO Frank 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 was designed in partnership with San Francisco’s Rubber Design. The dining area is juxtaposed with recycled steel elements, vintage Asian light fixtures, and pressed bamboo along the counters. Guests can get the feel for eating at a street cart at stand-up communal tables or at 25 outdoor seats, while listening to the sound of Asian pop music playing from vintage megaphone speakers. A variety of other cultural elements are utilized throughout the space, including Vietnamese food-related slogans on the walls and doors covered with more than six Asian languages for “enter” and “exit,” hand painted in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and more.
Asian Box in Palo Alto is currently pursuing green restaurant certification from the Green Restaurant Association. Klein and his partners plan to open two additional locations in San Francisco by the end of 2012. Click below to watch a video of the owners and executive chef discussing the concept.