By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Dec 16, 2021 at 11:01 AM

Seeking out flavorful Japanese fare? Fresh, delicately prepared sushi? Or warming bowls of ramen? For years, Kawa has been delivering on all three at both Kawa Japanese Restaurant, 325 E. Silver Spring Dr. and Kawa Ramen & Sushi at 2321 N. Murray Ave.

Next year, they will be adding a third location to the list at the 3rd Street Market Hall, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave.

AJ Heinen Inc., the firm which built out both of the other Kawa locations, is slated to begin work on their vendor stall, designed by Perspective Design Inc. in collaboration with Miyo Design. Kawa owner Selina Zheng says that, if all goes well, they are hoping to open at the food hall as soon as the end of February.

Rendering of Kawa
Rendering: Perspective Design Inc./Miyo Design

Kawa’s vendor stall will feature two distinct seating areas: a ramen bar and a sushi bar, both of which will offer distinctive menus of soul-filling Japanese dishes.

“What we love about the food hall is the variety,” notes Kawa owner Selina Zheng, citing the myriad choices from food vendors including American hamburgers, Italian pasta, Middle Eastern fare, breads, pizza and more.

And Zheng says they are excited to add to that variety with a menu of Japanese fare that offers both familiar, well executed items as well as a number of new offerings that haven’t really made a splash on the Milwaukee market yet.

Rendering 2
Rendering: Perspective Design Inc./Miyo Design

At the sushi bar, guests will find familiar items like Hellfire ramen, a popular offering featuring spicy long-simmering tonkotsu pork broth made from Berkshire hogs topped with torched pork belly, soft boiled soy egg, scallions, black wood ear mushrooms, marinated bamboo shoots, chili threads and house chili oil.

Hellfire RamenX

Zheng says they’ll start off serving just Hellfire ramen at the food hall, but they will eventually add more variety, including ramen with a chicken-based broth.

Meanwhile, at the sushi bar, Kawa’s chefs will prepare a menu of traditional sashimi and more traditional sushi preparations, including edo-mae (nigiri) sushi. 

Sashimi from KawaX

Kawa chef Mars Zheng says that, as soon as they are safely able to do so, they would also like to introduce a chef’s table experience at Kawa featuring a surprise multi-course omakase set that’s designed based on both the season and availability of the freshest fish. The table, which will be located inside the Kawa stall, will also offer guests a view of both the ramen and sushi-making processes.

But Zheng says they also plan to roll out a number of new dishes at the food hall. “We want to bring foods to Milwaukee that aren’t commonly served here,” she says.

Numerous new dishes will be featured on their appetizer menu, including Japanese street foods like karaage chicken (often known as Japanese fried chicken), a dish ubiquitous at izakaya spots in Japan.

Karaage chickenX

The addictively snackable chicken pieces are marinated in a soy ginger marinade, dredged (usually in potato starch) and deep fried until deeply crisp. Kawa will serve them with sauces for dipping, including a Kewpie-mayo based sauce as well as a lemon-soy dipping sauce. The karaage chicken is also likely to be available as a bowl served with rice.

Zheng says that they’ve also developed a plan to make the 3rd Street Market Hall location employee-owned. To do so, she says that every employee will receive shares in the business when they’ve reached a tenure of three years of employment.

Opening soon

The 3rd Street Market Hall is planning for a robust grand opening in early 2022. Opening vendors are likely to include Dairyland Old Fashioned Hamburgers & Frozen Custard, Mid-Way BakeryAmano PanMiddle East SideHot Dish PantryStrega (fresh pasta and desserts), Brew City Brand, MaKE Waves and The Greenhouse. Additional vendors, including Kawa 3rd Street, Dawg CityAnytime Arepas and Supernova Coffee & Doughnuts will open as their vendor stalls are completed.

The forthcoming food hall will also feature a 50-seat full service bar, along with a selfie museum, Topgolf Swing Suites, a gaming lounge and more.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.