Kung Fu Noodle on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis
What’s your Quang?
Confused? Let me explain. Quang is all about the food. Straight-across-the-plate, honest-to-grandma, authentic Vietnamese food that hasn’t changed in nearly three decades. Plastic menus. Crowded booths. Lunch meetings seated next to first dates. Families with baby buckets. Herds of teenagers. First-generation families and Asian-food newbies. And lines reliably filling up the tiny foyer.
What’s that? Quang is not your favorite Vietnamese restaurant? You have strong opinions on pho nam vs. pho bac? Someone else rolls their spring rolls tighter or uses a better mix of herbs? Immaterial. Because Quang — knock on wood — is never going anywhere. Quang is the kind of place that is never the wrong answer.
We need more Quangs.
And I think we might have a candidate, with a few caveats, right across the street.
Eat Street’s brand-new Kung Fu Noodle is optimistically, audaciously, perhaps foolhardily vast. (We visited smack dab between lunch and dinner, which is why the room looks empty in the photo.) But its menu is the opposite of vast: just six types of ramen, a handful of variations on noodle and rice bowls, and some appetizers. (And a full page of bubble teas. Now there are some priorities.) No sushi. No tempura. No bento boxes. Just noodles. Mostly.
And those noodles they take very seriously. Our server proudly told us that the noodles come from Japan by mail (even with the vast, well-stocked Shuang Hur market right next door). The thin, kinky ramen noodles are eggy and springy, flavorful and satisfying. We tried them and loved them in the Char Siu Ramen ($12 and marked “Chief Recommended” on the menu) and the Chicken Chao Mian ($9). Kung Fu Noodle is proudly Japanese — not fusion — but like the martial art its name celebrates, it carries inter-Asian influences: Chinese chow mein and dandan noodles, Korean kimchi.
The ramen was what initially drew us in the door. You’ve probably noticed ramen is having a moment. And any minute now we’re all going to feel like experts. Kung Fu Noodle’s ramen is homey and straightforward. No theatrics, no layered explosions of flavors. It’s not intricate or particularly delicate. It’s overtly porky and smoky, rich and satisfying. With three hearty slices of pork belly and half a runny egg sitting on those delicious, chewy noodles, it’s good enough to keep coming back for.
What we’ll crave, however, is the firecracker-red Kimchi Fried Rice ($8). Simple, silky, a little funky, and barely spicy, topped with a perfect sunnyside-up egg. And those Gyoza ($5). Potstickers have become almost a throwaway appetizer, as predictable and forgettable as calamari once was. But these are the real thing, with fresh, soft homemade dough and a zippy filling.
In fact, the appetizers were a win all around, from the Char Siu Buns ($3 each) and the Kung Fu Steamed Pork Buns ($5 for 4) — both with that delightful, bright white, marshmallowy dough — to the shrimpy Shumai ($5 for 6). (Have you noticed how many times we’ve mentioned pork? There’s just one vegetarian dish on the menu.)
If you’re bringing the kids, fill them up on appetizers, or order the mild Beef Bowl ($10) or one of the Chao Mians ($7-$12). Because I truly want to see this vast dining room fill up with both families and first dates. The restaurant is presentable enough for out-of-town guests and working lunches, and casual enough to just drop in. And just plain friendly: Our service was preternaturally fast, as well as warm and eager and brimming with opening-week energy.
Is Kung Fu Noodle the next Quang? That’s up to us. Can Eat Street support fast-casual Japanese? I think it should.
Kung Fu Noodle
Japanese noodles on Eat Street
2710 Nicollet Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Mon-Sat 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sun 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
BAR: Beer and wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes / Not yet
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: No / No
ENTREE RANGE: $8-$13
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
PARKING: Street parking
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