Kapow! in Boca cooks up noodles, cocktails, edgy artwork

Review: Kapow! explodes onto South Florida dining and cocktail scene
Related: Take 5: Artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli

Boca Raton’s trendy Mizner Park may never be the same. Restaurant/nightclub impresarios Rodney Mayo and Scott Frielich have joined forces with Pizza Fusion founder Vaughan Lazar for a fresh concept that combines tasty Asian street food with hand-crafted drinks and a social conscience.

Mayo and Frielich are known for such cutting-edge eateries as Dada, Tryst, The Dubliner, Howley’s, and Longboards. Lazar pioneered the concept of organic and eco-conscious pizza with Pizza Fusion.

Kapow! is inspired by New York City noodle bars featuring communal Asian comfort food with a gastro-style influence.
The menu will feature “fresh and sustainable” pan-Asian noodles and dim sum items plus craft cocktails in a edgy atmosphere. Much of that edge has been provided by South Florida artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli, who painted an incredible mural that spans one entire wall.

Pooch created the painting in his studio (click here to see the full artwork) on a 20-by-60-inch canvas. It was then photographed and enlarged into “a big sticker,” Pooch said, and placed on the wall. The Pooch-ized Asian-inspired artwork now covers a gigantic 9-by-28-foot wall.

Pooch's mural at Kapow! (Photo from KapowNoodleBar.com)

Pooch's mural at Kapow! (Photo from KapowNoodleBar.com)

In an interview with New Times, Lazar – true to his roots – talked of plans to use foods from local and organic sources. The partners acquired land nearby to grow herbs for cocktails and dishes, he said.

The 1,600-square-foot space in the heart of Mizner Park was built with reclaimed wood, energy-sustaining appliances, and other eco-friendly measures, Lazar told New Times. “It means a lot to us to leave a small footprint on the environment.” Among the “eco-initiatives” featured in Kapow! are water-efficient woks and restrooms, repurposed bar tops and tables, and reclaimed wood floors.

Lazar said he embraced the chance to work with the “visionary” duo of Mayo and Frielich: “Not only are they passionate and laid-back, but nine out of nine times, they have the focus and the resources to see things through. And that can be rare in the restaurant industry.”

A view from behind the bar at Pooch's mural at Kapow! (Photo from KapowNoodleBar.com)

A view from behind the bar at Pooch's mural at Kapow! (Photo from KapowNoodleBar.com)

One change since that article was published in September: Kapow! decided not to use cocktail consultant Freddy Diaz (one of my opponents in last April’s Zombie Jam) and is instead receiving mixology guidance from its distributor, Southern Wine & Spirits. I hope they’re up to the task.

In October, Kapow! added another influential name to its marquee when it named Roy Villacrusis as executive chef. He’s the creator of the innovative small-plates menu at Dirty Martini in Palm Beach Gardens and owner of Kubo in North Palm Beach. Villacrusis cut his teeth as head sushi chef at Mark’s in CityPlace, and also worked at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He won the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival’s Grand Chef Throwdown last December, as well as numerous “best chef” and “best restaurant” honors.

Villacrusis’ brand of “Asiatic Cuisine” will form the basis of the new menu at Kapow! It includes starters (Volcano Rock Shrimp, Pork & Cilantro Dumplings), big plates (Wild Grilled Salmon, Korean Short Ribs), and bowls (Brisket Chow Fun, Vegetarian Vermicelli).
* Click here to see the full menu

A cocktail sampling session at Kapow! (Photo from KapowNoodleBar.com)

A cocktail sampling session at Kapow! (Photo from KapowNoodleBar.com)

In an interview with New Times published Oct. 3, Villacrusis explained his high aspirations: “I don’t want us to be just another place. I want us to be the place. And, of course, we will work hard on making sure the flavors are to be remembered and hopefully loved.”

Not only will Kapow! be a hot spot for lunch, happy hour and dinner, but it will also be a go-to destination for late-night comfort food. The owners have plans to stay open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends.

I have high hopes for Kapow!, just as I do for Mayo’s most recent venture on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, Longboards. [See The Atomic Grog’s past coverage] Kapow! is a great concept and hopefully will be embraced by Boca Raton and South Florida.

This will be the prolific Mayo’s 15th restaurant/bar/nightclub venture and he shows no signs of slowing down. We’ve discovered that he recently shut down The Lounge, which shares a space with Longboards, in preparation for converting it into a bistro. The Lounge will move just west and across the street, a few doors down from his very first club, Respectable Street.

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Kapow! is at 431 Plaza Real in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park, adjacent to The Dubliner. Call (561) 347-7322 or e-mail info@KapowNoodleBar.com.
* Official sites: KapowNoodleBar.com | Facebook | Twitter.com

About Hurricane Hayward

A professional journalist and Florida resident for more than 30 years, Jim "Hurricane" Hayward shares his obsession with Polynesian Pop and other retro styles on his blog, The Atomic Grog. Jim's roots in mid-century and reto culture go back to his childhood in the 1960s, when he tagged along with his parents to Tiki restaurants and his father's custom car shows. His experience in journalism, mixology, and more than 20 years as an independent concert promoter make him a jack-of-all-trades in the South Florida scene. A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Jim is a longtime web producer for The Palm Beach Post. In his spare time, he has promoted hundreds of rock, punk, and indie concerts under the Slammie Productions name since the early 1990s. In 2011, he launched The Atomic Grog to extensively cover events, music, art, cocktails, and culture with a retro slant. Jim earned his nickname by virtue of both his dangerous exotic drinks and his longtime position producing The Post's tropical weather website.
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