We went into our eating experience at Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen understanding that the ramen wasn't going to be what we have come to know and love from the Ippudos and Slurp Shops of the world. We educated ourselves to know that the broth would be more subtle, and the hand-pulled noodles more central to the experience.
But just because we went in with an open mind and adjusted expectations doesn't mean we had to love the bowls in front of us. The noodles at Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen are excellent (almost as excellent as the name) but the broth and meat were just so...boring...that it was hard to fall in love with the ramen here, or even develop a nonsexual crush on it. Quite frankly, we wouldn't even swipe right on the new app that matches you up with various available soups in New York City (patent pending) if this stuff popped up on it.
Then again, that 7.3 rating you see on this review means that something had to have worked, and something did indeed. After the ramen was cleared away and our tears of disappointment dried up, our meal at Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen was actually really good. The other menu items - soup dumplings, scallion pancakes with beef, lo mein-style dishes - were fantastic. So much so that this place has jumped straight to the top of our Late Night Eats Hit List for Midtown, right up there with Sake Bar Hagi. There is, however, one caveat. For some reason, there are no alcoholic beverages available for purchase in the restaurant. So while we encourage you to show up after you've already had a few (as you should at any late night Chinese food session) don't expect to keep your buzz going once seated.
All in all, Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen is fairly straightforward. The dining room is pretty unremarkable, the turnover is fast, and the bathroom has random pairs of headphones hanging on the stall wall. Ok, so one part isn't so straightforward. To avoid springing these kinds of surprises on future customers, Kung Fu Mad Good Little Steamed Buns Mediocre Ramen Bizarre Bathroom Decor might be a more fitting name. We'll throw it in the suggestion box next time we're in.
Let's get this one out of the way. The noodles were very solid, a bit softer than what you usually find in a bowl of ramen, but with solid chew to them. The pork was a 3, the broth was a 2. Just nothing going on here. At best we can say it would be a nice bowl to eat in the summer given how light it is, but certainly not what you want in the colder months or when you just wake up craving the sh*t. As you may have guessed, we were underwhelmed.
Hong Kong Steamed Pork Buns
An above-average basket of pork soup dumplings. Aside from soup dump meccas like Joe's Shanghai, these are as good as they come. Juicy, meaty, and not so insanely hot that they will scald the hell out of your mouth. A compelling reason to eat here in their own right.
Scallion Pancake with Beef
More beef filling than scallion pancake, these are monsters that need to be surrounded and destroyed. Really wish this is what kale tasted like.
Cucumber with Garlic Sauce
One of our favorite dishes on the menu, this is exactly what it sounds like - a big ol’ plate of cukes, lightly coated in garlic sauce. A nice, refreshing crunch in every bite. And because they don't overdo it on the sauce, these achieve the Chinese impossible - vegetable first, sauce second.
Peking Duck Buns
A prototypical bun with a doughy outside and sweet meaty inside. They'll arrive at your table molten rock hot, so wait until they cool down, dig in, and enjoy. Maybe a bit too much dough for the amount of filling, but solid regardless of the imperfect ratio.
By the look of it, this is just another plate of standard Chinese lo mein. Except this dish would dominate in a head-to-head against whatever soggy, over-sauced version you're used to getting. Great noodles, with just the right amount of sauce and solid bites of protein or veg along the way. A must order for the table.