Sunday, November 29, 2009

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
(714) 758-0900
1221 S Harbor Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92805

Crispins Comfort Food - San Clemente


At 4:11 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Wow, Chinese Chicken Salad in Chinatown! How funny. I guess they did it for humor...

Were the shrimp actually on real newspaper, or was the paper just regular paper printed with newpaper like stuff on it?

Just wanted to say I linked to you and your OCweekly post also on my last post on Pelican Grill. You influenced me not to try Andrea even though your post was almost a year ago!

At 6:27 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Wow this place looks and sound like a big melting pot for foodies.

At 2:20 AM, Blogger mark said...

Rarely do I disagree with you Elmomonster, but I went here for OC Restaurant Week, and man. I did not see any happy faces. I ordered the tuna sashimi and it was a horrendous mess; it looked like it was hacked up with a dull saw. And that was the BEST dish.

At 3:24 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Looks like a fun experience. But I couldn't eat all that fried food that you ordered.

At 6:20 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Check this out...My La Cay post coming soon?

At 6:20 AM, Blogger Bill said...


At 6:59 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

Might be fun for a group of friends to go & munch heavily.

thread drift:
What is the name of that dish in your My La Cay post? Must eat!

At 12:50 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Elmo, its time for me to step back in and gently remind you to tell us whether or not the food was good or not in your reviews. Great job describing the food, but from reading I can't tell if its any good from your writing. Also, don't be afraid to let a restaurant "have it". be straight up and say "the food sucked butthole" if it is not good.

Back to this review, It looks like "Casino Food". It looks like they "wow" you with all the options, but nothing is really done that great, nor does it taste that great. Looks like Homestyle Buffet food that they serve to you plate by plate.

At 4:55 AM, Blogger Bill said...

CTF - I wish I could remember the dish I had. The only thing I remember was that almost all the dry noodles could be order with DUCK! Sorry :-(

At 5:35 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I just finished reading your Pelican Thanksgiving blowout! WOW! And you stayed there!? Andrea might have improved since I reviewed it, but kudos on choosing Pelican Grill. It's a safer bet!


It's like a salad bowl! HEHE! Although there is a little melting pot stuff going on here and there!


HA! I love disagreements! I hope people keep chiming in with opposing points of view so that we can all get a fully rounded picture (especially on a place that has 70 items on the menu). So, I'm curious, what else did you try?

And I was hoping someone who's tried the sashimi said something. I wasn't brave enough to order it. And frankly, you confirmed my doubts.

As you can see with my post, I only had 4 data points (and aside from the too sweet chili dipping sauce, though they were good data points). I liked them enough that I am going to go back and try more stuff, this time with plenty of friends. Also, the service couldn't be nicer.

Again, I was limited to the 4 dishes I tried because both my tablemates ordered the Thanksgiving plate for $11, which they both loved. But that left me to order from the street food menu by myself.

I wished I had more stomach space to do four more items that night. Maybe even ten! Glad I skipped the sashimi though.


I sure did! Of course, the next day, I made certain I ate something unfried. I made myself a caprese salad and some steamed salmon...mmmm...


Is that your blog? Because it's making me drool. You know how to get my attention!!!


You took the words out of my mouth on the noodle dish.

And you're right about this menu, it's more fun when you can order more stuff. I'm already looking forward to going back actually since my friends were throughly impressed with the turkey plate they tried.


HA! You're invaluable! Well, like I wrote to FAT PANDA, I only had 4 data points, but let me be clear: except for the too sweet dipping sauce for the shrimp, I LOVED EVERYTHING! I only wished I had tried more. The corn, by the way, was crisp and crunchy, not that frozen stuff (which is not that big of an accomplishment, I know, but heck, it's $2!)

Would I go back to this place? Absolutely. In fact, I definitely am.

And I would say it's more like carnival food than "casino"...I wish I used that comparison in my review actually. Because that's what it is. And the prices, to me, are just right. I can see spending no more than what was charged.

By the way, as far as bad places, as I've said before, I don't usually bother writing about those stinkers. Lest people forget, I write for this blog for fun. It costs me money to go out. MY OWN MONEY! And if a restaurant depresses me, I don't want to remind myself how badly that money was wasted. I dwell not on the bad, since I'd rather relish in the good.


Dry noodle...MMMM! Can you tell me what it will be called on the menu in case they don't have a translation?

At 10:56 AM, Anonymous reyrey said...

I agree with Fat Panda. We went there during OC Restaurant Week as well, and I wish the old K'ya was still there. Our tuna sashimi was still frozen when we got it. Other items ordered were ok, but nothing to come back for. I can't even remember what else we got--it was that forgettable.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Bill said...

MM - that is not my blog but I follow it since it keeps me in touch with the OC food scene that I am missing out on. I wish I could recall the name of the noodle I had I can only recall by checking out the menu. Bring a pair of dice? I hope Hungry Huy can clarify some of it for you.

At 7:47 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Hmm...well now I wished I visited them during OC Restaurant Week, because it seems everyone was there! I'll have to reassess after I come back and try more stuff. Now I'm torn: should I try this sashimi for myself to see how bad it is? Or just trust my first, gut instincts?


Hungry Huy is making me Hungry Elmo!

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Exile Kiss said...

Hi elmomonster,

Thanks for the review. I kept meaning to try K'ya before this change, but now it sounds like a huge shift. :)

At 10:42 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


From my vantage point, it's a shift to the good...but then the other comments suggests that it might swing the other way. If you get to go there before I get to again, let me know what you think. Of course, I'll be reading your blog anyway.


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