When it comes to cool culinary concepts, Kapow Kicks Ass.
We’re blessed with a lot of exciting dining & drinking venues around the Boca / Delray area, but you won’t find any quite like Kapow! Noodle Bar in Mizner Park. There’s a lot of ways to describe Kapow, but I think the best word is just, “Cool.” Maybe it’s the unique Asian-street fair-meets-south-Florida concept, brought to life by Executive Chef Caleb Holman. Maybe it’s the happenin’ bar scene, especially with its convivial outdoor patio and killer cocktails. Perhaps it’s the funky “industrial chic” setting, interspersed with reclaimed barn wood, giant mounted butterflies, and that crazy ‘tattoo art’ full wall mural. Maybe it’s just the name. Whatever “it” is, it’s very cool – and it works.
As Co-owner Vaughan Lazar explains, he and partners Rodney Mayo and Scott Frieilich wanted to introduce a new vision to Boca, taking proven models from afar, augmented by their own vast restaurant success (including Dada in Delray, and Dubliner right next door). Let’s just say, “Mission Accomplished.” Kapow is cutting edge, yet comfortable; High energy, yet laid back; Exotic, yet familiar. Oh yeah – it’s also affordable, and even eco-friendly, as well. Yes, Kapow aimed high — and, I’m happy to report, it hits its mark with a resounding Bang!
From the small confines of his exhibition kitchen (watch the flames fly!), Chef Caleb delivers a powerful punch with every dish. “Small Plates” ($6-$13) are perfect for sharing, or can serve as a light meal on their own (think, “Asian Tapas”). The menu takes you on an exotic Asian expedition, from Chinese Shrimp Dumpling and Korean Beef Yukke (beef tartare with kimchee, Asian pear, and wasabi sour cream), to Hawaiian-inspired Tuna Poke and Latin-meets-Asian Empanada Wontons. Of particular note, Tempura Asparagus brings new meaning to ‘eating your greens.’ Fresh verdant spears sport a wispy tempura jacket, then flash-fried to a golden audible crunch. A zippy cucumber dipping sauce (like a tricked out Greek Tzaziki) provides a refreshing accompaniment. One taste of these guys, and you may never settle for French fries & ketchup again! Coconut Mussels luxuriate in a seductive coconut milk bath, enlivened with sake, Yuzu, lemongrass, and ginger. Wok-Charred Edamame arrive beautifully blistered as if they came straight off the backyard grill, hit with a finishing flash of smoked sea salt to further enhance their smoky character. Roasted Cauliflower & Brussels Sprouts is perhaps the best starter, but I think makes an even better side dish to any entree.
Asian Noodle Bowls bring home the “Noodle Bar” moniker. If your only exposure to Ramen noodles are those cheap packs of dried grocery store crap, do yourself a favor and experience the real thing. Tender noodles swim in a savory natural broth (chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp) along with select veggies and aromatics, crowned with a delicate soft boiled egg lending a final touch of supple richness. The result: A multi-textured, mouth watering, soul satisfying, heartwarming bowl of pure goodness. Steamed buns are another ‘Must Try,’ starring Korean beef, pulled pork, duck leg, or (my favorite) organic Maitake mushrooms, nestled between pillowy steamed buns. The Steamed Buns are perhaps the most addicting item on the menu, but the new Korean Beef Bulgogi Tacos prove an equally worthy contender.
The opening jabs say Wow (make that, Kapow!) with every hit, but the “Big Plates” deliver the real knock-out. All natural Creekstone Farms Skirt Steak arrived juicy and filet-tender, singing with flavor and heightened by a light sweet soy marinade (housemade, of course). Alone it’s amazing, but teamed with the accompanying Japanese mushrooms, truffle mash, and crispy fried red onions, it’s damn near perfect. Miso-glazed Sustainable Chilean Sea Bass draws equal accolades, sided by Yaki Soba noodles, edamame, scallions, and bean sprouts. Fresh Catch of the Day Bowl (in a fragrant ginger-lemongrass broth with a plethora of Asian vegetables), Chicken Yaki Soba, Tempura Tuna Salad, Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwiches (lunch only), and Kapow’s signature Pad Thai are other noteworthy entrees ($12 – $24).
Dessert options are somewhat limited — not surprising, given the diminutive kitchen, and Kapow’s commitment to homemade freshness. Selections change frequently, but don’t miss the housemade Vanilla Cheesecake Spring Rolls with caramel dipping sauce (even better than they sound!) if available. Of course no visit to Kapow is complete without putting that lively bar to the test. Try some of crazy concoctions, like its innovative ‘New Fashioned,’ refreshing Ginger Mojito, and sake and bourbon infusions.
Yes, Kapow is a cool place indeed – very cool. And it definitely earns my vote as one of Boca’s true Rising Stars!
Kapow! Noodle Bar is open daily for lunch and dinner, plus Sunday brunch. Located in Mizner Park (431 Plaza Real) in Boca Raton (right next to Dubliner). Call (561) 347-7322 www.KapowNoodleBar.com