There are a few menu marketing cliches that always work on me. First, if you name something “forbidden,” I almost always will order it. Second, if a non-Asian restaurant serves a dish based on some classic Asian flavors, I probably can’t resist it, either.
Naturally, the Forbidden Rice at Flower Child, a trendy, health-conscious chain with two recently opened outposts in Atlanta, caught my attention. It’s a grain bowl based on a mixture of black pearl rice, which has a little more texture and heft than your typical white long grain, and red japonica rice, which is a white short grain. Together, these two rice strains make for a hearty grain bowl, and provide a pleasant visual contrast.
The base version of Flower Child’s Forbidden Rice is vegetarian, but you can choose to add either chicken or beef. I added chicken, which turns the dish into a satisfying meal that won’t leave you overstuffed. Mixed throughout the rice are veggies, like bok choy, carrot and onion, which add plenty of extra texture, ensuring that this grain bowl doesn’t become monotonous.
A big one-two punch of flavor comes from toasted sesame oil and red chili hoisin. Sesame oil is an amazing ingredient; a small amount adds a boatload of savory flavor. The hoisin adds a nice spark of spiciness, though it’s not overwhelming. This is Buckhead spicy, not Buford Highway spicy.
Forbidden Rice is a guiltless, flavorful and comforting dish. It’s like a healthy, more expensive version of good takeout Asian food. Plus, it’s forbidden — which, somehow, makes anything taste better.
Flower Child. 3400 Around Lenox Road, Atlanta. 678-668-2271; 6400 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. 470-481-7850, iamaflowerchild.com.