The ramen boom continues: Kung-Fu Noodles is now open on Nicollet on the corner of 27th Street, across the street from legend and treasure Quang. I went. How is it?
Big and clean and dull, mainly. It’s the newest project from the folks behind forgettable, but affordable, Japanese sushi spots Haiku Japanese Bistro (there’s one in Stadium Village and one in Mendota Heights), and Osaka Sushi and Hibachi, the local suburban chain of affordable Asian food. The physical space itself is all contemporary with stone finishes and dark wood in a big beige box; there’s a little waterfall in the corner, which makes a pleasant bubbling noise. This seems to be this company’s bid to create a quick and hip, on-trend place for folks who want to get on the ramen train. The menu is mainly ramen (from $9.95), and a few greatest hits of Asian bar food: edamame, steamed pork buns, and char-sui pork buns. (The menu promises banh-mi, I was told they are not making them and never will be.) There are bubble teas, beer and wine, and hot sake.
It’s all OK, and not better than that. The ramen I tried had bland and unremarkable broth, narutomaki (that swirly centered fish cake) that tasted old and stale, cold eggs that ought to have been hot, good fatty char siu pork, and forgettable, indistinct noodles. It all seemed pretty pre-fab. As chain-breakfast-spot buttermilk pancakes are to homemade ones, so was this ramen to the best stuff. I mean, I’d be happy to have it if I was sick or in an airport, but it’s not going to give you great insight into broth or massive Instagram ramen bragging rights, the way the ramen will at Zen Box Izakaya, Moto-I or Ramen Kazama.
Everything else I tried on the menu tasted like pretty good pre-fab, mall Chinese. The char siu pork buns are gummy and rich as can be, the Kung Fu steamed pork buns are dense and sweet and incredibly filling—they might even be the biggest bang for your buck on all of Eat Street for $4.95. All in all, I predict this place will ultimately be very popular with anyone who doesn’t want to wait for a table at Quang on a packed Friday night. It also has a decent chance of becoming a teen sensation, because the prices are low, the bubble tea selection is extensive, the room feels grown-up, and it’s right off the Midtown Greenway bike highway. A $4.95 basket of pork buns paired with a $3.50 bubble tea in a big, nice room with a water-feature is just the sort of under-$10 cosmopolitan experience that every teen deserves in this fair city. Throw in dessert at Glam Doll donuts a block away, and you have a $15 date night that’s on-trend and on-budget—so, snapchat this to the youth, won’t you?
Kung Fu Noodles, 2710 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.