A lunch-time kick
Kung Food9410 Prototype Dr.
Reno, NV 89521
Before aggressively quaint gentrification ruined it, 42nd Street off Times Square in New York City contained several derelict theaters that showed nothing but bad kung fu movies. Kung fu all day, every day. Patrons often hopped back and forth between the theaters and nearby porn emporiums, celebrating two of humanity’s oldest pleasures: violence and sex.
I thought of this martial arts cheesiness before my lunch at Kung Food. A Chinese restaurant named Kung Food? I groaned audibly, recalling a dessert “shoppe” I once ate in named Pie-ety. Nuns ran it. Get it? Piety? Now I hear you groaning.
Actually, though, I shouldn’t have worried too much.
Yes, the menu proudly promotes dishes like Kung “Pow” Beef ($5.95 small, $7.25 large) and “Enter the Dragon” Deluxe Vegetables ($4.95, $6.25).
And, yes, Bruce Lee posters line Kung Food’s walls. In them, Mr. Lee crouches, kicks and whirls, his muscles stretched and rippling.
But all this takes place in a spacious, immaculately clean dining room where cafeteria-style tables sparkle and chairs have bright, primary-colored seats, as if someone sat down and squashed a gumdrop. The furniture and kung fu posters taken together create the air of a slightly rowdy playroom.
Certainly, big kids of all sorts filled Kung Food during my lunch, some staying to eat, some just ordering take-out. Most looked like harried workers from the corporate office parks of the Double Diamond Ranch area. And most appeared as if they could use a good, inexpensive meal—understandable when the ongoing dot-com shakeouts send stock prices and options under water.
Kung Food gave my lunch party—and I trust it gave these corporate warriors—that good meal and a little more.
“Side Kick” spicy chicken wings ($5.25) jumbled happily together on my plate. They were tender, juicy and had a flavorful heat. So did the “Double Punch” hot and sour soup ($3.95, $5.75), a dish that, thankfully, had enough vinegar to produce the correct biting sourness.
Honey-glazed barbecued pork ($4.95) was also tender and nicely married the sweetness of honey with the barbecue’s saltiness and spices. Even old chestnuts, like potstickers ($4.75), caught my attention with their tangy pork filling.
The Szechuan pork ($5.25, $6.55) was tangy as well, but—and this is an eternal culinary pet peeve—its true fieriness was tempered in deference to American palates. The kitchen could make this dish hotter and still please almost anyone who chooses it.
The lemon chicken features chunks of chicken nestled in a light and refreshing lemon sauce ($5.25, $6.55). Hints of soy nicely balanced the lemon’s zesty citrus notes. And a robust garlic sauce added punch to “Bruce’s” Broccoli ($4.95, $6.25), a welcome preparation of a vegetable I’ve always thought was rather dull.
After lunch, my guests and I were tempted by glasses of sake ($2.75). It would be just a tiny indulgence, we thought, just dipping into the rice wine’s mellow warmth. But we decided that sake is something meant for the night.
Kung Food, on the other hand, is clearly meant for the day—that is, for workers from nearby companies who want to enjoy a quick lunch or pick up dinner on their way home. One of my guests even suggested with dark humor that those same companies secretly control the conveniently located restaurant as a way of keeping their drones from straying too far from the corporate hive.
While you ponder that Mulder-esque notion, consider this, too: Kung Food isn’t worth a special trip to the Double Diamond Ranch area, but if you work, live or happen to find yourself in that part of town, it’s definitely worth a visit.