Anyone who’s a fan of Lori Nunes’ KunFusion food truck will feel right at home cruising into her Pismo Beach restaurant.
Nunes rolled into the brick-and-mortar incarnation of KunFusion in January 2014. (The food truck, aka “Wok-n-Roll,” is getting a bit of a rest for now but still appears at various special events.)
Tucked in corner of the Pismo Coast Shopping Plaza near California Fresh Market, the restaurant offers the same eclectic energy as the food truck … plus the added benefits of spaciousness, local wine, 12 craft drafts and plenty of parking.
KunFusion’s black-and-white palette is accented by quick pops of festive color and shiny metal, and you have several seating areas from which to choose. There are about a dozen tables throughout, several seats at the front bar, a bit more bar-like seating toward the back and a cozy lounge area.
The restaurant’s fare kicks the definition of “fusion” into a different gear. There are elements of Asian, Californian, comfort food, South American, vegan, gluten-free and even Portuguese, the latter a nod to Nunes’ own heritage.
At first, offbeat names such as KunFudilla (a riff on a quesadilla) or Moo Fu (a rice bowl topped with flank steak) might seem confusing, but this is really a very approachable menu if you take just a little time to park and peruse it.
For example, start with any one of the tasty salads, which include Chinese chicken with Mandarin oranges, seared ahi with housemade Sriracha vinaigrette, and flank steak marinated in Korean barbecue sauce and served over mixed greens with strawberries, feta cheese and candied walnuts. All the proteins may be substituted for tempeh or tofu, an option that runs throughout the menu.
“We do have a big vegan and gluten-free following,” said Nunes, adding that — although the kitchen itself isn’t entirely gluten-free — she has a separate fryer and prep station dedicated to the gluten-free dishes.
Jasmine rice (or brown rice) flavored with coconut and lime is the foundation for the gluten-free KuFun Bowls, which are then topped with ingredients that can please carnivores or vegans. Opt for the Indian-inspired Cho Fu with Waygu beef and lentils, the Kluck Fu with breaded chicken breast tossed in a housemade Thai orange sauce, or the vegan Lo Fu with sautéed tempeh and onion served with broccoli slaw and guacamole hummus.
You won’t find a tortilla in the KunFusion kitchen, but you won’t miss them thanks to Nunes’ inventive technique of frying whole wheat lavash bread or egg roll wrappers to make the crispy Fu Kun “tacos.” Choices include grilled tilapia with cilantro slaw and housemade chipotle aioli, sautéed pork belly with seaweed slaw and daikon radish sprouts, and the popular sushi-grade ahi topped with Mandarin oranges.
Other customer favorites include the freshly hand-cut sweet potato fries known as Dalai Yamas and an appetizer called Balls of Steel. With those, Nunes forms arepa dough (usually used for a South American flatbread) into hand-rolled, deep fried noshes stuffed with roasted habañeros and cheese.
Nunes readily admits that the names on the KunFusion menu are a little “wackadoodle,” but she is certainly serious about her food.
“I’m making everything — salad dressings, dipping sauces, aiolis, hummus — from scratch, and we’re even starting to make our own kimchee,” said Nunes. “I’m also all about consistency, right down to my knife cuts.”
It’s the same hands-on, attention-to-detail approach Nunes applied to the food truck, so if you haven’t tried KunFusion, consider taking the restaurant for a test drive. If you have questions about its playful, flavorful menu, the staff will be happy to steer you in the right direction.
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
561 Five Cities Drive (Pismo Coast Shopping Center, next to California Fresh Market)
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
The scene: An upbeat, neighborhood restaurant with table, bar and comfy sofa seating.
The cuisine: A fusion mix of several cuisines, driven by a from-scratch and consistent approach, accessible to meat lovers, vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free diners; local wine and draft beer available.
Expect to spend: Starters and bowls under $10; salads and tacos $10-15; specials include Pint Night Mondays, Taco Tuesday nights and happy hours Tuesday-Thursday 4-6 p.m.