A bigger, bolder, more seductive Kapow Noodle Bar is coming to Boca Raton’s Mizner Park on Friday, Sept. 16, its expansive new space a dramatic and pleasing reinvention of the old.
In its move across Plaza Real, Kapow Noodle Bar co-owners Vaughan Dugan and Rodney Mayo have created a distinctive new stage for their culinary ambitions, an invigorating setting of sumptuous possibility that seems destined to be one of the “it” night-out destinations in Palm Beach County.
In a quick tour of the restaurant this week, as finishing touches were still being applied (or in boxes waiting to be unpacked), here’s what we saw and learned from Dugan.
The new Kapow Noodle Bar is about 5,000 square feet, three times the size with twice the seating of the old place, and it rolls out before you in a series of unique vignettes, courtesy of Fort Lauderdale-based Manhas Design, illuminated in dramatic lighting, colors, textures and moods. The first one is humorous, as you check in at a desk that resembles a ramen bowl, which sits under a larger-than-life Japanese Lucky Cat from Unique Rabbit Studios in Pompano Beach.
In the corner to your left, a long, leather banquette beckons under a mural of mysterious geishas by West Palm Beach painter Craig McInnis, awash in sexy red and blue light. If this is where you wait for your table, you may not want to leave. Overhead is a sculpture that looks like a giant abacus — because it is a functioning abacus, in case you need help figuring the tip.
Ahead, the voluminous dining room is divided by a soaring stand of dark bamboo, with tables and booths on either side, private recesses of seating every so often, and a long, rough-hewn wooden table for 10 in the back, which seems likely to become a hot seat. In the left rear corner is an omakase bar, to your right a long indoor-outdoor cocktail bar. At the far end of the space, doors lead to private event rooms (or karaoke, if you’re in the mood).
Above it all, the soffit at the ceiling is the setting for a 95-foot, black-and-white mural from Fort Lauderdale artist Rosanna Kalis (which will be layered in projections from Jasper Mosher of The Electric Dream Machine). Looking at it, one is convinced the mural, followed from left to right, is telling a story about its androgynous protagonists, which will be revealed only after more study time and cocktails at the bar.
Kapow will introduce an expanded menu of “elevated” fare under the direction of veteran chef Anthony Williams, with new items including Lobster with Garlic Black Bean Sauce (featuring a 2-pound Maine lobster); a Wagyu New York strip steak; King Prawn Banh Mi; Red Oil Dumplings (pork, shrimp, peppery red oil sauce and cilantro); and three styles of fresh oysters, including a version grilled with kimchi butter.
But the big news on the new menu is sushi, which was not served in the former location, to the disappointment of many. Kapow recently hired Vincent Lau, formerly of Sunset Sushi in Boca Raton, as executive sushi chef.
“The sushi offering will be something new and exciting for us. Being there in the same spot in Boca for 12 years, it was one of the most requested dishes,” Dugan says.
Longtime customers will be happy to know that their favorite dishes are likely to have made the trip across the street. So, yes, your Angry Shrimp Dumplings will be there, along with Tuna Tartare Crispy Rice, Hoisin BBQ Baby Back Ribs and the Peking Duck, of course.
“We’re keeping most of the menu to start. We don’t want it to be absolute culture shock, with a whole new menu,” Dugan says. “We’ve been serving a similar menu for almost 12 years now, and we don’t want to upset any of our awesome regulars. But we certainly have quite a few new dishes in store for the more elevated diner as well.”
One improvement for the old menu is an oven imported from China for preparing the Peking Duck. Until now, Kapow in Boca Raton had been getting by using a conventional oven. (The Kapow location in West Palm Beach has the proper oven.)
“This is an oven specifically made for roasting duck. We want to do it right. When it’s done right, there’s nothing like it,” Dugan says.
When Dugan and Mayo took over the new space — once home to Japanese bistro The Blue Fish — they found it had a sushi bar built into it. Under the direction of chef Lau, the eight-seat bar will host a 14- to 16-course omakase menu on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“We don’t want to be a sushi restaurant, but people have been asking for it for so long, and we actually have the space to do it,” Dugan says. “I think we’re gonna have just enough on the menu to satisfy everybody’s sushi cravings, and we’re gonna do it with respect and quality.”
Mixologist Angela Dugan, Vaughan’s wife, runs the cocktail program for Kapow and its sister properties in the Sub-Culture Group of restaurants and bars. The new Kapow feels like the perfect stage for her singular creativity behind the bar.
Signature cocktails will include the Akai (with El Tesoro Blanco Tequila, hibiscus, Montelobos Mezcal, ginger, Chareau aloe liqueur, Suze liqueur and aquafaba), the Land & Sea (Peak Whisky, Redemption High Rye, kelp elderberry cordial, mushroom cypress stock and Choya Yuzu), and the Kazan (a flaming toy chest of adventure fueled by 12 ounces of booze, including Plantation O.F.T.D. rum and Appleton 8-Year rum).
Dugan also has a menu of nonalcoholic “Chaktails.”
For a different kind of experience, ask for a selection from the new highball menu, a showcase for drinks made in the Japanese tradition with Dugan’s new Suntory Toki Highball Machine. The sleek contraption produces intensely carbonated, icy cold water blended with Toki whisky, a refreshing drink that is somehow blissfully smooth as shards of bubbles pierce your tongue. No shame if you sense a tear forming in your eye. Highly recommended.
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At the far end of the dining room are three rooms available for private events, two of which share a wall that can telescope out of the way to form one larger room. This space opens onto a good-sized patio that can accommodate an outdoor bar.
All three rooms, which have banquette seating, big-screen TVs and whimsical wallpaper, are soundproof and come with state-of-the-art audiovisual technology — yes, perfectly set up to be reserved as private karaoke rooms.
Across the street, the old Kapow and its sister bar-restaurant next door, The Dubliner, did their share of karaoke nights.
In keeping with the theme, the new Kapow will offer an “elevated” form of karaoke.
“We thought this was a really unique opportunity to a) have the ability to have private event space and private dining, and b) also implement state-of-the-art technology and soundproofing of the rooms, so if we wanted to convert them all to private karaoke rooms, we could do that as well.”
Kapow Noodle Bar is set to open at 402 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16. Call 561-347-7322 or visit KapowNoodleBar.com.
Staff writer Ben Crandell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Instagram @BenCrandell and Twitter @BenCrandell.