When it comes to quality, Asian takeout joints are typically miles behind their traditional sit-down counterparts. But modern eateries like Foumami, Wrapmi, and Bento Express are breaking down that longstanding divide between good food and fast food. Kigo Kitchen, which opened at Northeastern University's Curry Student Center in September, is the newest entry in Boston's burgeoning fast-casual Asian-food scene.
Kigo is a Japanese- and Thai-style build-your-own-stir-fry station that serves up dishes like a well-oiled machine. It lets customers choose their own protein (chicken, pork, steak, edamame, tofu, or veggies only), sauce (a teriyaki offshoot called "kigo-yaki" pineapple tamarind, Penang curry, peanut hoisin, coconut lime, or fire sauce), and base (noodles, white rice, or brown rice), which the chefs toss together, rather haphazardly, in a large flaming wok. Ninety seconds later, voilà: a steaming bowl of Asian-flavored identity crisis.
Founder and CEO Steve Hooper, a former venture capitalist, says he dreamt up the concept as an MBA student while interning with Boloco founder John Pepper, who helped Hooper get his idea off the ground. But it's too early to tell if Kigo has the potential to become a local name brand like Boloco.
To the restaurant's credit, students and others in the area have lined up for combos like Island Time ($7.75), Thai Me Up ($8.75), and my favorite, Wok Full o' Nuts ($7) — edamame fried with bell pepper, onion, carrot, snow peas, and Chinese celery, all topped with peanut sauce. The Seattle-style teriyaki sauce used for Kigo Classic ($7.75) can be overwhelming, so try subbing in coconut lime. The Penang curry is another instance in which Kigo drenches perfectly savory ingredients with a thick, rich sauce. Still, a flavor-blasted bowl of Thai noodles might be just the thing for nursing a hangover or scarfing down a tasty meal before class.
EAT UP The Curry Student Center at Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Ave, Boston :: 617.373.2000 or kigokitchen.com. Mon–Thurs, 11 am to 7 pm; Friday, 11 am to 5 pm