K'ya Street Fare - Anaheim
Whether it was inspired by Susan Feniger's L.A. restaurant Street or spurred by tightening budgets in a down economy or both, the recent conversion of K'ya from a decidedly chic restaurant serving chic food to a chic restaurant serving street food is just the shot in the arm the place needed.
To be quite honest, prior to the change, the three or so times I visited the restaurant inside the too-cool Hotel Menage across the freeway from Disneyland, I've never seen more than two tables occupied -- one of them I'd be sitting in. Now, the leather-tannery-meets-Tiki-room surroundings have actual people in it, all enjoying food served out of paper baskets, using their hands, licking their fingers, having a grand old time.
To see how much things have changed, one need only look at the tables. Each has settings of ketchup bottles, mustard, soy sauce, Tapatio and Sriracha, along with a repository of wooden chopsticks.
Reading the menu confirms the transformation. Gone are platters costing northwards of $20, now replaced by a list of about 70 items, with nothing over $10, most hovering around the $5 mark. Instead of appetizers, main course, and dessert, mostly everything is, for all intents and purposes, appetizers.
Yes, it's kind of like a tapas bar menu. Though, really, that's not accurate either. There are substantial meals to be had here, like a 1/3 pound burger or a Cuban sandwich for $5. Or if you're feeling really peckish, there's loco moco for $6.
The bulk of the offerings are quick bites intended to emulate what you can grab on the streets of of San Francisco's Chinatown, Ensenada, Tokyo, New York, Miami Beach, Korea Town, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Chicago, Venice, Paris and Bangkok .
But be warned, they're not trying to be completely faithful or authentic or even geographically accurate. If you want to get technical about it, you'll notice that some items are spuriously categorized. I mean, when was the last time you saw chopped cobb salad being sold on the streets of Los Angeles? Or chinese chicken salad in SF's Chinatown? Or, most hilariously, a French dip sandwich (which is an L.A. invention) in Paris?
You can get nit-picky like this, and it's fun, but there's no denying that perusing the list and picking out nibbles of this and a bite of that is even more so. And the more friends you bring, the more fun you can have.
And as I discovered what you pick seems to say a lot about you. Take what I ended up choosing and you'll peg me for a fried foods addict, which wouldn't be inaccurate. First, I took the empanadas, stuffed with slightly spicy cubed white chicken pieces and sporting crust that bubbled and blistered in the oil. There was a tart and creamy cilantro dipping sauce that I used for just about everything, including the crispy coconut shrimp. The latter had a sweet chili dipping sauce of its own, but it was so sugary I heard my teeth rotting on contact.
The shrimp itself, however, was nicely fried. The meat still springy, protected by the shaved coconut breading. And for the first time eating coconut shrimp, I can actually taste the coconut flavor.
I ordered the corn on the cob as a counterpoint to the grease of the other two dishes, but it was itself drenched in yummy butter, sprinkled with chile powder. A squeeze of lime made it zingy.
And of course, I ended with churros -- nicely crunchy outside, mushy warm inside, served hot from the fryer, its radiant heat quickly melting the vanilla ice cream it sat beside. Each stick was caked with an excess of cinnamon sugar and fun, and so is the restaurant.
K'ya Street Fare
1221 S Harbor Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92805
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