An Early Taste of Bushwick's King Noodle's Hipster Asian Stoner Food
For much of the past decade, when New Yorkers were rediscovering the borough to the east of Manhattan, you could spot a Brooklyn restaurant by its reclaimed wood, exposed brick, and refurbished interiors, all flourishes that highlighted the DIY-nature of the Brooklyn lifestyle (or, at the very least, the Brooklyn brand). But while we're beginning to see shifts away from that grain, no restaurant goes so definitively against it as King Noodle, the Asian-themed stoner food haven that opened on Flushing Avenue in Bushwick last week.
The interior looks like a distorted Latin American diner: Mirrors cover just about every wall, silver streamers hang in the window, and lights flash from blue to red to green under the added chaos of a disco ball, illuminating cartoonish reef-themed murals (done by Brooklyn designer Secret Handshake) and a menu hung in panels from the ceiling near the back. But while the decor flies in the face of Brooklyn re-build convention, deeper probing shows the Brooklyn preservationist mentality is intact: Most of these flourishes were carried over from the Dominican bar that held this address before.
King Noodle began as a pop-up at the Narrows, the bar just two doors down. When that gained steam, that bar's partner, Keith Kenji Cochran, teamed up with executive chef Nick Subic, who did time at Roberta's and the Pines, to sign the lease here. Subic then put together a menu that challenges farm-to-table trends and is poised to please drunk snackers, Asian-food enthusiasts, and any eater with a secret penchant for the snack foods of youth. Nacho Cheese Doritos, for instance, add crunchy texture and food scientist-engineered umami to a carbonara spiked with spicy kimchee. Wavy noodles look suspiciously like packaged ramen, but they're coated in a tangy-spicy sauce reminiscent of Sriracha and topped with shrimp, pork, pickled vegetables, and an egg yolk, which adds viscosity as you mix. For all the fever-dream-like weirdness, though, the menu also includes more recognizable fare, like spicy wings with lime and peanut and Chinese broccoli sauteed simply in what tasted like soy sauce, garlic, and ginger (and our server noted that starter has been especially popular).
Cochran's drinks list is limited and vaguely tiki-themed; if you're dining with at least three people, opt for the scorpion bowl or a pitcher of Bud. Cans of Brooklyn Brewery selections, sake, and a couple of other cocktails serve as more individualized selections.
Oh, and expect to wait: As a testament to how much this neighborhood has changed, the line stretched for an hour and a half this weekend. As our friend noted, "So this is where all the kids are." It helps that the price is right--three of us shared a feast and two pitchers of beer and paid about $30 each. You could get out for under $20, drink included, if you had just an entree.
Kimchee carbonara with Doritos
A special corn salad
Thai coffee ice cream matched to peanut butter crumble and preserved fruit
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