Rice and Dough opened up last Spring to mild fanfare, the most buzz was about the concept; a place that serves pizza and sushi. I never had a high opinion of it; it just seemed to me that 2 people got together and said "hey, people like pizza, and people like sushi, so let's open a Pizza and Sushi place".
The place is set back 1 block from Las Olas, on a quiet street surrounded by banks and other businesses that are closed at night and on weekends. This is both a positive and a negative. It's easy to not think about this place, because it's away from the foot traffic on the Boulevard. They have an outdoor patio and a few seats on the front porch and a couple of flame patio heaters that are kind of cool even when you don't need them. What's nice about this spot is that there isn' much traffic at night and outdoor dining has the feel of city dining without the noise and the fumes.
I tried a pizza when they first opened and it was Ok, but nothing I'd be ordering again anytime soon. I had to go to the bank which is near the place and I was pressed for time, so I thought I'd go in for the wedge salad I'd spotted on their website's menu. For $7.95 it seemed like a good, safe, relatively cheap lunch.
I walked in around 2pm and there were 3 tables occupied; they told me to sit anywhere. I grabbed a seat on the hallway between the front and back rooms.
There's a also a bar that serves as a wine bar and a sushi bar, with 2 big TVs in the front. It's a big change from the bad deli decor that was in his place previously. I glanced at the menu to make sure they still had the wedge salad, and I noticed that the price was now $9.95. I tried to double check the website but the site doesn't seem to work on an iPhone. I checked a few other prices; the Margherita pizza id $13.95 now, $3 more than the menu from August posted on their web site. A pretty hefty increase for a mediocre pie. No matter, I'd already dropped $1 into parking and it was too late to go somewhere else. I ordered an iced tea, which was dropped off a few minutes later without fruit.
The tea looked a little murky; I dropped in a splenda and gave it a taste. Bah! It tasted like it was made with dishwater. I figured that some lemon might help, but my server was nowhere to be found. 5 minutes later he ran by and I asked for some lemon; another 5 minutes and he came back with 2 skinny slices of lemon. I dropped them in, but alas, the tea was not salvageable. >
Another 5 minutes and a guy in white dropped off the salad.
Rice and Dough 60 Degree Wedge
When he first put it down, my impression was that it was bigger than expected. But when I started to probe around, I realized that this wasn't what I was expecting. The bowl was filled with weeds (aka field greens), and there was a very thin layer of blue cheese dressing. The greens had a balsamic based dressing, so when it was all mixed up it didn't resemble blue cheese. The "cherry tomatoes" and "red onions" where chopped up, and I doubt they were cherry tomotoes. And the pancetta wasn't cooked right: note to the chef: you're supposed to cook the pancetta until it's crisp like bacon; would you serve raw bacon in a salad? There was one large piece so offensive that I couldn't chew it and I had to spit it into a napkin. Yum.
In the end, the salad was a disaster. The reason I order wedge salads is because I don't like weeds; I know when I order a caesar I'm getting romaine and when I order a wedge I'm getting iceberg; Im not expecting some iceberg on top of a bowl of weeds.
When I was ready to leave, there was no-one to be found. Finally he showed up and I asked for the check; he had no concern that I didn't each much of the salad or that the iced tea was 3/4 full.
What we have here is a "chef" trying to prove to himself that he's better than others. The truth is that some tomato slices, a slice of red onion, some oscar mayer bacon and a good blue cheese over an iceberg wedge is what a customer wants when they order a wedge salad. Nobody wants this.
With prices 25% higher than they were in August, Rice and Dough fits right in with other bad, overpriced restaurants in the area.
And put up a current menu. They have time to raise their prices and print up new menus for the restaurant, but they don't have time to update their advertising to properly warn customers. It's hard to believe that it's just an oversight.
I was ordering take out pizza, and though I was temped to order the sausage, I didn't want the pesto and I also didn't want to review something off-menu, so I went with a margherita pie.
Rice and Dough Margherita Pizza
I'm not sure why they bothered to put 3 pieces of basil on it, which just cooks in the box in the 5 minute walk home and just has to be removed. From a mechanical standpoint, the pizza was fine. Good crust. Pungent sauce. But the cheese just wasn't margherita-like; it was too hard. It was the same problem that the pizza I got from Luigi's had.
The truth is that this pizza had little to do with a real margherita pizza, which is characterized by soft, fresh mozzarella and basil, so they might as well just cut the fancy stuff and serve regular pizzas. Nobody else is selling full sized pizza downtown, so take advantage of it. The market for NY Style pizza with meatballs or sausage is much bigger than the market for the fancy italian stuff they have on the menu here. This town is full of chefs who think they're so good that they can sell fancy foods to Zona Fresca palates; instead of just selling the kind of solid food that people want. While we see Tundra and M-Bar empty night after night; you'd think that someone would figure it out eventually.
More Veal Parmesan and less Kobe and Speck please. Play to the customer base that is Fort Lauderdale.