Kung POW! is the sister of Shandong Restaurant (on NE Broadway Ave.), and although its doors flung open just a mere two months ago it’s already garnered a reputation for dishing up excellent Chinese fare with a flair for spice that’s like a sock in the taste buds. No matter where you are on the spicy scale of zero to daring, Kung POW! is perfect if you’re hankering for Asian culinary prowess. While Kung POW! champions flaming Szechuan food, it also emphasizes a balance of cuisine that spans various areas in China including Hong Kong, Hunan, and Shanghai.
I’m used to musty, shabby Chinese restaurants (delicious grub though), so it was fascinating to try a swankier place that still has a casual enough air. The modern décor featured sleek, dark wooden furniture and red accents from ceiling lamps. One wall showcased a colorful, abstract mural of a bustling street in China. An atmosphere of excitement hummed as a fair number of couples, families, and businessmen feasted on food.
The staff carried out their work with efficiency and friendliness, and one of the co-owners, Vo Chiem, even came out to say hello. He explained that Kung POW! aims to serve “a 21st century twist on authentic Chinese food,” and that is the experience we received.
I wanted to sample everything. We decided to go family style and order a bunch of dishes to share from the dinner menu since the lunch menu consists of separate entrees. I prepared my hungry appetite with a free cup of hot and sour soup, only offered at lunch.
The appetizer lamb bao bing arrived first, a DIY dish of four elements wrapped in a Chinese rice pancake made in house (sort of like a tortilla). I spooned hot chili sauce on a pancake, covered it with a heap of diced savory lamb spiced with black pepper, and then added a dollop of sweet hoisin sauce and some green onion. I relished every bite of this sublime combination.
Fried curry fish balls, a gracious gift from Mr. Chiem, set my nostrils ablaze and my sinuses sobbing after one sniff. These large fish balls were fried in a light batter and then topped with a curry sauce that created a glorious pool at the bottom. The fish had a nice, dense texture, and I could still taste the curry amid the roaring furnace in my mouth. Beware if you’re keen to try this.
My favorite of the meal, however, was the pork belly with brussel sprouts. I do believe pigs fly in heaven, because that pork belly was divine. The fat literally—literally—melted in my mouth in a burst of pepper and star anise flavors, and the brussel sprouts had a slightly charred taste that complemented the pork. Kung POW! didn’t skimp on the meat, either. There was plenty on the plate to satiate my craving.
Honey dry fried chicken followed, a dish of tangy yet sweet honey sauce drowning pieces of chicken fried in a thick breading. Lastly, we finished with a generous bowl of Judy’s noodles (made in house). Scissors were included to let us cut the long noodles to the desired size. After a series of snips, the noodles were delightful with a mix of spinach and chili peppers in a garlic and white wine sauce.
There was so much food leftover that we actually had a pyramid of takeout boxes. Nevertheless, I highly recommend Kung POW!. Prepare to be struck by its classically authentic and fiery food that will give you a picturesque taste of China.