Kamikaze Kitchen has come a long way in three years.
Launched as a food truck in 2018 by Nic Riccardi and his wife, Libbe, Kamikaze Kitchen’s Asian-New Mexican fusion quickly developed a following and in a year found a home base in the back of Red Door Brewery Downtown. A year later, Riccardi and his wife opened their own place at Wyoming and Comanche in the Northeast Heights.
I visited the Red Door location in 2019 and found Kamikaze Kitchen’s spicy fried food to be an ideal match with Red Door’s beers. Less ideal was the setup. The small kitchen was wedged in the back of the cavernous space, leaving diners in the front feeling like exiles.
There’s no such problem at Kamikaze Kitchen’s new location. The restaurant stretches narrowly along the south end of a building that also is home to Poki Poki Cevicheria. There are plenty of seats, lots of natural light and a garage door wall that can be opened in warm weather.
Kamikaze Kitchen’s menu retains the renegade spirit of its food truck origins. Its best dishes mix and match Asian and New Mexican flavors, as in the excellent fried egg rolls with green chile cheeseburger filling. Most of the food is spicy, and you can add even more fire with sauces such as sriracha mayonnaise, wasabi and spicy ketchup.
Appetizers feature deep fried egg rolls finished on the grill and served open-faced. Along with the aforementioned green chile cheeseburger egg rolls, there are bacon jam macaroni and cheese, green chile chicken enchilada and pizza versions (all $7). The most expensive appetizer is an eminently shareable pile of wonton nachos ($10), fried wonton chips topped with queso blanco and a choice of shredded, smoked chicken or smoked pork belly.
This time out, I tried the fried cauliflower bites ($9), cauliflower stalks coated with tempura batter and deep-fried. The meaty cauliflower was cooked well, right in the sweet spot between crunchy and mushy, and picked up a charge from the vinegary, spicy buffalo sauce. The tempura coating, crisp, delicate and not the least bit greasy, was a marvel.
Kamikaze Kitchen’s skill in frying also shines through in the cream cheese wontons ($3). Like the tempura cauliflower, the wonton shells sandwiched around a thin filling of sweet cream cheese and green onion were delicate and non-greasy. Paired with a sweet and sour dipping sauce, they register more as a light dessert than an appetizer.
The more substantial meals, called Kamikaze Kombos, run between $10 and $14 and include a street taco platter ($10), a fried chicken breast sandwich ($13) and a green chile cheeseburger ($12). The tempura-battered cauliflower returns with sautéed broccoli and red bell peppers in a fried rice dish called the Viet-Veggie ($11).
The most expensive choice is a monstrous Eggroll-arito ($14) that looks like the featured item in an eating challenge. It’s a deep-fried burrito with the usual tortilla swapped out for an egg roll wrapper that must be about the size of a newspaper. The whole thing is wrapped around a heaping serving of fried rice spiced up with green chile rice and wasabi mayonnaise. The tender pieces of fortune cookie-fried chicken nesting inside the rice were the best part of the dish. Otherwise, it’s a lot of fried rice and crispy egg roll shell. It’s sliced in half diagonally for easy sharing.
Each of the three street tacos in the Three Little Pigs Platter ($13) holds a couple of pieces of smoked pork belly with Asian slaw and sriracha mayonnaise to bring some heat and crunch. The pork belly was a mixed bag: some pieces were tough, others tender.
Kamikaze Kitchen serves several french fries that cost from $5 to $8. I had mine as a side with the Three Little Pigs platter. The thick-cut fries were well seasoned, but overly saturated with oil.
The two desserts on the menu continue the theme of heavy fried food. Berry Nutella Cheesecake Nachos ($8), featuring fried wonton chips topped with cheesecake filling, strawberries and warm Nutella, is as tasty and decadent as it sounds.
The filling of the Cookie Dough Eggrolls ($6) was silky, but the egg roll wrapper was more leaden than crisp.
Several menu items are gluten-free or can be made that way. There’s a dedicated fryer for gluten-free preparations to ensure no contamination. Kamikaze Kitchen also offers dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan options.
Service was friendly and helpful. The food took 25 minutes to come out, so I would recommend ordering online or by phone for takeout. Everything was packaged thoughtfully, the boxes and sauces helpfully labeled.
Two weeks earlier, I was at Vinaigrette washing down a kale salad with ginger turmeric tonic. Kamikaze Kitchen’s food lands firmly on the other side of the spectrum. It’s heavy, flavorful and boldly spiced – a memorable experience, but one you might not want to repeat every day.