R: Opened in mid December 2014, the small café offers everything a hungry vegan could desire. Fortunately, owners Barry and Yuli Tu did the traveling to those distant lands and loved their dining experiences so much they wanted to recreate some of those dishes and serve them in a style that was convenient and enjoyable to Angelenos.
Z: We think they've succeeded with plenty of vegan offerings. While the café's ambience is not a recreation of Southeast Asian décor, its food offerings definitely reflect those exotic flavors. The familiar fiery Southeast Asian seasonings have been toned down considerably and now make a great fit for American palates.
R: When vegans dine at a veg-friendly restaurant and are able to find a few veggie offerings on the menu, they're pretty happy. They know they've found nirvana when they encounter the banquet of vegetables served at this little vegan-friendly café.
Z: Kaya's foods are displayed cafeteria style where patrons can build their own meal with abundant choices. Diners may choose to enjoy their meal in a bowl, in three organic flour roti tacos, or in three lettuce-wrap "tacos. Our friend Chuck joined us on this eating safari and we all chose the bowl.
R: The next set of choices--what to put on the bottom of the bowl: Coconut Lime Rice, Brown Basil Rice, or Baby Kale and Green Leaf Lettuce. We each gravitated to the Coconut Lime Rice seasoned with lime juice and delicately sweetened with palm sugar.
Z: The protein was the next decision--an easy one for three vegheads--we chose the Sambal Tofu, consisting of bite-size chunks of firm tofu marinated and stir-fried in a lushly flavored lemongrass spice blend. The portions were impressively generous.
R: Moving down the line, we were thrilled with all the vegetable choices we could add to our bowls. Best of all, there were no limitations on the number of vegetable salads we could choose. We could create our own meal by choosing one or two vegetables or have a little bit of everything. Admittedly, we went a little crazy and made the-everything choice. The result was a mishmash of wonderful flavors.
Z: Next time we'll probably be a little more selective and aim for fewer items so each flavor stands out more distinctively. But we found the vegetable combos so inviting, we had to taste the Sweet Tamarind Slaw with long slivers of green papaya and carrots zapped with mint and tamarind dressing. South East Asian Salsa was a bright, sunny-looking chopped salad of pineapple, jicama, bell peppers, and cilantro all bathed in a sweet dressing.
R: I especially liked the delicious Peanut Slaw with shredded cabbage, carrots, and crushed peanuts because it was slathered with a flavorful peanut sauce. Sambal Corn combined sweet corn kernels, scallions, and tomatoes flavored with an exotic Sambal condiment.
Z: The Light Pickles were my favorite veggie combination. The pairing of thin-sliced cucumbers and red onions really jumped to the forefront with a robust sweet, sour, salty marinade, typical of Asian flavorings. This one captured my taste buds because of its definitive tang.
R: What I didn't expect to see was the delicious Garlic Kale infused with ginger oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Adding the tasty kale salad and the chopped Greenleaf lettuce to my bowl, there was no question I would have my healthy greens for the day.
Z: And if that weren't enough, there were 9 different condiment offerings: Sweet Soy Glaze, Mild Roasted Tomato Garlic Sambal, Sister's Sambal, Spicy Sambal, Crispy Garlic, Crushed Roasted Peanuts, Chopped Red Fresno Chilis, and a finely minced Herb Trio of mint, cilantro, and basil.
R: One thing for sure, there were scads of veggies in this meal, so we knew that involved lots of chopping and slicing all done by hand. Over the door were large letters that read: "Made from scratch like how granny did it, but with a modern twist." And everything truly had a delicious homemade from-scratch quality.
Z: We almost always prefer water with our meals, but the Lychee Mint Tea was too tempting to pass up. Soon we were all sipping on the chilled, lychee-infused sweet beverage. If it weren't for the simple café ambience, we might have felt we were eating a casual meal at a street stand in Malaysia or Indonesia. Manager Kellen Morrison was appreciating our enthusiasm about the foods--it was obvious he has taken pride in his effort to see this café succeed.
R: At $10.95 each for our jumbo heaped bowls we recognized Kaya Street Kitchen offers excellent value for the money and a darned tasty meal. Street parking is plentiful and after 8 p.m. we didn't even have to feed the meters.
Kaya Street Kitchen
Reviewed May 2015