Currently our most craveworthy hotspot, Ramen Kazama has been getting all the hype and long lines it deserves.
But what about when you just can't wait? Or when you need ramen for takeout (Ramen Kazama doesn't offer it), or when you need ramen for lunch (Ramen Kazama only serves at dinner)?
Check out Kung Fu Noodle.
The space is enormous — much too big for its own good — and the impersonal feel alone could work against it. Where Ramen Kazama is tight and intimate and feels cheerfully crowded at all times, this place is about as intimate as an airplane hangar. They'd be wise to cut the size of the room in half. Barring that fix, think of Kung Fu as a quick and simple lunchtime spot, or for takeout, as ambiance is not its strong suit.
But we found the char siu (spicy roasted pork) ramen to be delightful — rich broth, copious al dente noodles, a big dollop of chile sauce for yet more spice, bean sprouts, bamboo, scallion, and the signature soft egg. Served in an attractive ceramic bowl with big, dramatic spoons, it beats a tuna fish sandwich for lunch. Prices are fair, if not cheap, at $11.95 per bowl, and extras of all the components (noodles, broth, spicy sauce, etc.,) can be had for $.50 to $2.50 apiece. We'd order it again.
You've had chow mein, that Chinese-American favorite beloved by most of middle America; that glossy, corn-starchy binder for celery and noodles as crisp as breakfast cereal all served over rice. But have you had Chao Mian, the progenitor of that dish? They've got it at Kung Fu.
Stir-fried noodles tossed quickly with soy sauce, veggies, and your choice of protein is a weekday dish that could easily become a habit. Our seafood version arrived with generous portions of real seafood — shrimp, mussels, squid, and imitation crab (well, mostly real seafood) — and was a breezy way to hoover in some noodles. It's about as enjoyable as brick ramen in front of the T.V., which is to say quite enjoyable.
Steamed buns with char siu pork and Kewpie mayo were on point technically, if a bit of a mess visually. Despite the overwhelming ratio of bun to filling, they were clearly handmade, so we can't knock them for being more brains than beauty. On the plate, a bit of a wreck; on the palate, just fine.
We'd recommend ordering a side of the powerfully addictive kimchee to enliven just about anything you're eating.
While Kung Fu is promising "authentic Japanese noodle," it would be wiser to view this as an easygoing pan-Asian mashup that's better than, say, P.F. Chang's, but not on the level of Zen Box, Ramen Kazama, or Tanpopo.
Bomb into Kung Fu on a Sunday with a bunch of friends, and order up some sake on tap, 'cause they got that, too. Toss a bunch of stuff on the table and share. Or get in on some fast, easy, and cheap takeout when Netflix and your fat pants are beckoning.
It isn't elegant, it isn't authentic, and that's okay. It's likable. So just relax and eat some noodles.
Kung Fu Noodle
2710 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis