A Fork in the Road: Kung Fu Kitchen & Sushi

Owner Nathan Lieberman overseas specialties of his restaurant Kung Fu Kitchen & Sushi in the Catalina Hotel, South Beach.

Nathan Lieberman has gone from snow bird to Peking duck. The restaurateur who spent winters in South Florida as a kid now offers the classic duck dish at Kung Fu Kitchen & Sushi on the beach. The menu combines Chinese favorites, maki rolls and a smattering of Southeast Asian dishes.

Ambience: The eclectic space in the Catalina hotel lobby has an onyx sushi bar that lights up, magenta ceilings hung with black glass chandeliers and a mural of a samurai sporting headphones. A DJ spins most nights. On Saturday nights there’s an interactive burlesque show based on Forbidden City, a ’30s club in San Francisco, creating a three-ring circus of fun, food and music.

Six years ago Lieberman’s dad, Alan Lieberman, bought the Catalina and renovated it himself. Dad designed and built the interior; Nathan hired several sushi chefs and Chef Oa to run the Chinese kitchen. Starters include chunks of miso-glazed sea bass, octopus salad with avocado and kimchi, and Vietnamese rice papers rolled up in tofu, lettuce and bean sprouts with peanut dipping sauce. General Tsao chicken (stir-fried bits of bird, bell peppers and whole dried red chiles in a sweet spicy sauce) or  pepper steak strips tossed with asparagus can be shared by two with shrimp crackers and cubes of fried tofu. 
The deep-fried snapper looks whole, but it is filleted skin wrapped around bite-size bits of fish under a top hat of crispy potato “noodles” doused in ginger-honey sauce. Tangy pad Thai has shrimp, veggies, omelet strips and peanuts.

Sushi-wise, the signature roll is the Kung Fu crunch with cream cheese, crabstick and spicy tuna topped with tempura flakes and eel sauce. Scallop dynamite is a house special with chopped bivalves rolled up inside out with red tobiko and spicy mayo. There’s also sushi rolled in cucumber instead of rice. The sushi counter hops until the wee hours with combos from Iron Monkey to Godzilla served with sake bombs. Vanilla ice cream with lychees makes for a cool ending in this funky-hip spot.


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