Kung Fu Dumpling

I remember reading about Kung Fu Dumpling (https://www.kungfudumplings.com/) some time last year.  A new Chinese restaurant that specializes in dumplings and noodles sounded great, but it’s in Oviedo, at 7 Alafaya Woods Blvd #4000, right off Alafaya Trail — a direction I rarely drive in.  I tried it for the first time this past summer when I got home late from an out-of-town work trip, exhausted and hungry after dropping a co-worker off at home near there.  I figured I would end up with disappointing fast food, but when I drove by Kung Fu Dumpling and saw the lights on, you won’t believe how quickly I turned in there.

This is the inside.  There are several tables, but it was pretty quiet after 10 PM on a Sunday.  Since I didn’t even plan to stop by, I perused the menu and ordered at the counter, overjoyed that this long travel day was going to have a happy ending.   

The space is brightly lit with festive decor, and it’s sparkling clean inside.  I was relieved to hang around in the dining room while they prepared my food, after the stress of flying.  I was messing around on my phone, but it seemed like all the food I ordered was ready in about ten minutes.   

Kung Fu Dumpling offers many familiar dim sum dishes, and I couldn’t resist bringing home an order of homemade fried pork, shrimp, and chive dumplings (three for $6), since I know my wife likes those too.  If you’ve had these dumplings anywhere else, you know what you’re getting, and you’ll be very happy with them.  I figure some restaurants serve frozen ones, but these tasted very fresh.  

Pardon the shadows, but these were another dim sum favorite of mine, pan-fried pork buns (two for $5).  I wolfed these down, standing up in my kitchen, before I could even unpack my luggage.  We all know they’re never as good the next day!

I was thrilled to see my go-to standard Chinese restaurant dish, beef chow fun ($17), made with homemade wide, flat, chewy rice noodles, stir-fried with sliced beef, onions, and scallions.  Neither of us are huge fans of bean sprouts, so I asked them to hold those, and I was happy to not have to pick them out.  This was a shining example of beef chow fun.  In fact, one could consider it beef chow fun for the whole family.

I couldn’t help ordering a second dish I knew my wife and I could share: pad Thai ($15), a classic dish of stir-fried noodles (also homemade!) with eggs, chicken, shrimp, scallions, carrots, peanuts, and lime wedges to give it a little tangy tartness.  There is a mysterious sour-sweet flavor I often encounter in pad Thai that I love that might be tamarind, but it could also be lime.  Anyway, I don’t order pad Thai often enough at Thai restaurants, but I’m glad I ordered this version at Kung Fu Dumpling, especially with the homemade noodles.  My wife liked it too.

This is from the “Asian Wraps” section of the menu: a green scallion pancake wrap, with sweet red char siu barbecue pork stuffed inside ($10).  I’ve had similar scallion pancakes at Chuan Lu Garden, and this one worked well as a tortilla-like wrap.  I loved the combination of flavors and textures here.

This is a black sesame pancake ($5.50) that was very similar to a Malaysian paratha or roti, but not as buttery.  I know my wife doesn’t like onions or scallions, but she absolutely loved this, as I figured she would.  I resolved to return and bring her more, since I thought the pancakes and wraps were limited-time specials.  But looking at the Kung Fu Dumpling menu online, I’m pleased to say both the black sesame pancake, the green scallion pancake (also $5.50), and all the “Asian wraps” continue to be available.

So I returned to Kung Fu Dumpling a week or two later, bringing her two of those black sesame pancakes.  My wife also requested the teriyaki Buddha’s Delight ($14), a vegetarian dish with stir-fried tofu, broccoli, carrots, and onions (which I dutifully picked out and ate for her) in a lightly sweet teriyaki sauce.  I didn’t take a picture of it, but it came with fragrant jasmine rice.

And after over-ordering on my first visit, when I was delirious from travel fatigue, I stuck to one new dish the second time: Korean pan-seared braised pork belly over lo mein noodles ($16).  I hoped she would want to share this dish too, and I believe she liked the slice of tender pork belly she tried.  As for me, I loved it.  

So that’s my review of Kung Fu Dumpling, after two visits.  I’m still rarely in that part of Oviedo, where it approaches East Orlando and turns into UCF before you know it.  But even if you don’t live or work anywhere in the area, I still highly recommend Kung Fu Dumpling for your pan-Asian comfort food needs.  Whether you’re craving Chinese, Thai, Korean, Japanese, or Taiwanese flavors, you will find something you love here.  If you want late-night dim sum, they have you covered.  If you crave tender homemade noodles (as I so often do), you’ll be in for such a treat.  As the great thespian Keanu Reeves said after a grueling training session in The Matrix (1999): “I know kung fu.”  Now you, constant reader, also know Kung Fu.

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Ramen Takagi

There are some foods I crave literally all of the time.  Loaded Italian subs.  Turkish lahmacun.  Nova salmon.  Jamaican oxtails.  Hot pastrami with grilled onions and good mustard.  Prosciutto.  Oysters.  Auntie Anne’s pretzels.  (Sorry, not sorry!)  Obviously I don’t eat them all the time because I don’t want to die, but I sure do love them.  And another one on this list is tonkotsu ramen, springy noodles and fat-marbled chashu pork slices in a gloriously rich and creamy pork bone broth.  There are other kinds of ramen that are all worthy of love, but for me, tonkotsu is the bowl that rules them all.

There are a few restaurants to get a delicious bowl of ramen around Orlando, and I’ve reviewed a few of them: Susuru down near Disney Springs, Domu in the East End Market in Orlando’s hip Audubon Park neighborhood, Kai Asian Street Fare on the edge of Casselberry and Winter Park, Jade Sushi & New Asian in College Park near downtown Orlando.

But this past week, a brand-new restaurant specializing in ramen opened on Aloma Avenue in Oviedo, between Tuskawilla Road and the 417, placing it very close to Winter Springs, Casselberry, and Winter Park, and ten minutes from our home.  The place is Ramen Takagi (https://ramentakagi.com/), and I’ve been waiting months for it to finally open.  (It is open every day except Tuesdays!)  When I arrived, I was the only customer, but three staff members were chatting inside.  I was pleased to see they were all wearing masks, even though they were alone in their restaurant, and they were warm and friendly when I got there and introduced myself.  After visiting tonight for the first time, I was so glad to welcome them to the neighborhood, and I promised these new neighbors they would be seeing a lot more of me.

This is the tonkotsu ramen ($13), with the sliced chashu pork, ajitamago (a marinated, soft-boiled egg), pickled ginger, and scallions over a generous portion of perfectly-cooked noodles.  Even before adding the broth, it was beautiful.

This is the rich, creamy pork bone broth, which had already started separating in the ten minutes it took me to drive home, but a quick stir melded everything back together.  I appreciated it so much that they packed the broth separately.

Here’s the beautiful bowl with the broth stirred up and poured in over everything.  I loved it so very much.  Is it my favorite tonkotsu ramen in Orlando?  It was one of those meals that was so good, my eyes rolled back into my head.  It’s a heck of a lot more convenient than Domu (which has the excellent Richie Rich tonkotsu I reviewed earlier this year, pre-pandemic), and so much closer than Susuru, which I liked a lot, but it’s an hour from our door.  So for multiple reasons, it might be my new favorite.  It might become your new favorite too.

I couldn’t resist trying the mazesoba ($11), an order of savory ground pork with diced chashu, another ajitamago egg, strips of nori seaweed, and scallions over noodles.  This is a brothless ramen dish, and it was still tasty, but the tonkotsu broth was so good, it was hard for the mazesoba to measure up.  In the near future, I will try all the other forms of ramen at Ramen Takagi: shio (chicken bone broth with a salt base), shoyu (chicken bone broth with a soy base), and miso (pork and chicken blended broth, which can be ordered spicy or non-spicy).

This was kaedama, literally translated to an extra order of noodles, which were a very reasonable $1.50.  I had considered adding them to any leftover tonkotsu broth, but instead my wife really enjoyed them with just a small splash of the broth. 

These are onigiri, tasty triangles of seafood wrapped in sushi rice and wrapped again in delicious nori, the same thin sheets of crispy seaweed used for sushi rolls.  I liked how these came wrapped in cellophane with a red stripe down the center that you pull to tear it open, and then release the cellophane from the sides.

I chose the tuna with mayo (left, $2.50) and the smoked salmon (right, $3).  For the tuna with mayo, I was really expecting raw or seared ahi tuna, rich and purple, hopefully adorned with the orange spicy mayo I love so much with sushi, poke, and pretty much everything.  I was surprised it was more like tuna salad.  It wasn’t bad, just not at all what I expected.  I liked the smoked salmon more, but even it was flakes of smoked salmon instead of… I don’t know if I expected thin slices of nova or belly lox or what.  Still, as always, I’m so glad I tried them.

As I said, Ramen Takagi just opened a week ago, after the sign had been up for several months.  I was starting to worry the restaurant might end up another casualty of 2020, and they might never open their doors at all.  But they’re here, and they’re already off to a bang-up start.  I was extremely impressed by their mask protocol, being alone in the shop without the prying eyes of concerned customers, and they had their masks on, taking things seriously before they could have possibly seen me approach.  And I was just as impressed by the quality of my takeout food.

I’m so glad to have another great restaurant near our home, along with a much closer and quicker source for one of my favorite dishes, tonkotsu ramen.  When I was in college, eating instant Nissin noodles that cost a buck for seven salty single servings, I never would have dreamed that over 20 years later, I’d have a wonderful wife, make an okay living, write a food blog that a handful of people actually read, or pay $13 for a bowl of delicious, beautiful, fresh ramen without thinking twice about it.  It makes me feel very lucky to be where I am, doing what I’m doing, and eating what I’m eating.  I intend to become a regular at Ramen Takagi, and I encourage my dozens of readers to do the same!