When KCUR Food Critic Charles Ferruzza moved to Kansas City in 1984, there were “lots and lots” of Chinese restaurants, but very few Thai, Korean or Vietnamese places.
That has changed.
“People have no idea what a plethora of options they have now,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.
Here in Kansas City, there’s been a groundswell of interest in different types of Asian cuisine — and also in more “authentic dishes,” like kare-kare (a Filipino oxtail stew) and geoduck (giant clam) sushi.
Ferruzza, along with Food Critics Bonjwing Lee and Pete Dulin, uncover the best Asian food in and around Kansas City.
Here are their recommendations:
Bonjwing Lee, The Ulterior Epicure:
- The “smoked pork” dish at Kin Lin (it’s called “la-ro,” which means “winter meat"). It’s basically a smoked bacon dish that’s stir-fried. It’s spicy, and I just like the texture of the meat: it’s a waxier type of bacon that’s been cured and salted and smoked.
- At New Peking, the Korean-adapted “ying jan pe” is a mix of seafood, cucumbers, pork and spinach that they toss together in a spicy mustard sauce and serve cold.
- Dim sum at Bo Ling’s is still the best (and one of the very few) in town. The variety is just amazing.
- Columbus Park Ramen Shop is a hip noodle shop.
Charles Ferruzza, The Pitch:
- Bo Ling's: The Plaza location is the only venue still owned by the Ng family, who started the local dynasty of popular Asian restaurants in the early 1980s. It’s just a classic restaurant, period.
- ABC Café is a wonderfully intimate, modestly priced restaurant with an array of unusual dim sum dishes and entrees. Serves late.
- Princess Garden is the classic American-Chinese restaurant with the most comprehensive menu of dishes best described as "Americanized Asian cuisine." They have dishes that were, really, American standards for Chinese food for such a long, long time. You can hardly find egg foo young on a menu anymore. Other classic American-Chinese dishes would be lo mein, sweet-and-sour anything, kung pao chicken — these are dishes we all grew up with. As for the décor: Oh my gosh, it’s the greatest 1960s restaurant you’ve ever walked into (though the current location was built in the 1980s, but you know what I mean).
Pete Dulin, freelance food and drink writer:
- Bob Wasabi serves great sashimi and other dishes like poke, squid salad and hamachi kama (it’s yellowtail; it’s the neck portion of the fish that’s seasoned and broiled, and it’s full of great flavor). They also specialize in certain things, like geoduck (giant clam), which is uncommon at sushi restaurants around town, and sea urchin.
- Spices Asian. It’s primarily Thai food, though the owners are from Laos and serve a few Laotian dishes. I really like their Thai sausage. It’s a pork sausage they make themselves. It’s kind of like a bratwurst in size; it’s served sliced and you can actually see the lemongrass, garlic, fresh herbs and spices. It’s really fresh and full of flavor, and I’ve never really seen that type of dish at Thai restaurants in town. Also good: the mango sticky rice, duck noodle soup, roasted duck stir-fry with shiitake mushrooms.
- The buffet at Bangkok Pavilion is a good opportunity to try a great variety of dishes that you wouldn’t necessarily see on a lunch menu.
- Kaiyo sushi in Cosentino's downtown (the hot temptation roll).
- Chosun Korean BBQ serves traditional dishes like bibimbap (a steamed rice bowl topped with vegetables and fried egg) and kimchijun (Korean pancake with green onion and kimchi). The hot pot (communal-style soup) is fantastic.
- Hyundai Korean in Leavenworth is chef-recommended.
- One of the best dishes I’ve come across is the fatty pork with preserved vegetables at ABC Café. The fatty pork is basically pork belly; it’s like bacon, but it’s cut super-thick. The vegetables are pickled-type greens. It’s incredibly good; I think ABC Café is the best Chinese restaurant in the whole metro.
- One of my favorites is pad woon sen at Lulu’s. It’s made with cellophane noodles, red bell peppers, cilantro, mushrooms and egg. It comes with a sauce that has fish sauce and Thai chiles. It’s a nice blend of flavors.
- Hyundai in Leavenworth has great bibimbap.
- Oriental Bistro in Lawrence has quite a variety of dishes. My favorite is on their Thai menu; it’s a yellow pineapple curry with tomatoes and basil. It’s really nicely balanced, not overly hot, but a big flavor. They also do recipes on request. My husband requested Peking duck, and they did a beautiful full presentation. It was quite lovely.
- Spices Asian has a great papaya salad.
- The vegetarian pho at Vietnam Café (Columbus Park) and also at Pho Good.
- Hot Basil has good soup and good noodle dishes.
- I’ve been hooked on the pork belly tacos at Bun Mee Phan. They’re phenomenal. It’s a limited menu, but they also do rice bowls, banh mi, taco-type dishes.
- The banh mi at iPho Tower is so yummy.
- You can also get Peking duck at New Peking.
- The yoshi bowl at Domo; it's clear rice noodles, grilled pork, fresh herbs and a Vietnamese-style vinaigrette.
- The spicy chicken (#20) at Kin Lin. It’s diced chicken that’s breaded, and it’s very spicy. It’s served with a few sautéed vegetables. I’ve never had anything like it anywhere else. Anyone who likes spicy Chinese food will love this.
Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at email@example.com.