Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Kaya Japanese Restaurant

After trying a few Japanese restaurants based on high recommendations such as Sushi by Yuji, Kishimoto and Tokyo Thyme, I decided to spend a couple of hours going through forty (literally) restaurants on Urbanspoon. Looking through almost every photo and judging the presentation as well as knife skill (which is not necessarily the best way but it helps), I finally stumbled upon a place that seemed worthy to visit! And I know my sushi pretty well.

Kaya Japanese Restaurant is located in Coquitlam on Austin Avenue and parking is limited in the area. The restaurant's interior looks simple as well as clean, and has a lighted cherry blossom tree in the middle along with paper lantern lamps hanging from the ceiling. Although the restaurant does not look very big, there are plenty of seats. The left side has half booth seating arrangements with divider walls, and there are tables in the centre as well as on the other side.

Walking in, apparently we opened the wrong door and were welcomed by a young waitress yelling angrily, "CAN YOU USE THE OTHER DOOR?" Yeah… not the friendliest welcoming considering that it was pouring rain, there was no sign posted mentioning which door to open, and that the restaurant was empty. Usually people who work in the service industry can fake friendliness, such as saying "Ohhhh sorry! You are supposed to use the other door," which actually guilt trips the customers while the staff secretly thinks "idiots". See the difference? I prefer the latter option a lot more. After being seated, the younger waitress was off work and our waitress for the night was an older lady, who was very friendly as well as attentive.


The kani miso soup has a rich miso and a tasty real crab meat flavour (regardless if packaged or not). In addition, the miso does not taste salty at all and there are plenty of crab meat. Actually, there is quite a few pieces of crab meat sitting at the bottom of the bowl.

As for the asari miso, the soup tastes a bit more light compared to the kani and has a natural slightly salty flavour, which my friend enjoyed more. Furthermore, the asari miso comes with a good amount of clams. Also, both orders of miso soup are made to order which is worth mentioning, considering that some restaurants pre-make them.

The motoyaki has a light rich caramelized as well as a slightly sweet flavour, and although the shredded crab meat could not be seen, the taste was fused with the sauce. In addition, the diced scallop tastes flavourful with a hint of caramelized onion, and the spinach provides some moisture. Furthermore, the sauce tastes extremely light as well was flavourful, and not heavy at all. My friend and I both wanted to slurp everything up, compared to scooping out the goods and leaving the mayonnaise behind like usual.

MASAGO ($1.50), IKURA ($2.05), AMAEBI ($2.15), TORO ($1.75) AND SALMON ($1.65).

For the orders of nigiri, the rice has a perfect hint of sushi vinegar and the rice to meat ratio is perfect as well. Starting with the masago and ikura, the rice comes up to a bit less than half way which is the perfect amount, the restaurant does not cheap out! The masago as always, tastes like tiny soft crunches and the ikura has a soft squishy popping texture, along with a saltier taste. In addition, we appreciate that the ikura is slightly rinsed which many restaurants decide to pass on, and the exterior does not taste slimy or gooey. 

Next, the amaebi is surprisingly a fresh spot prawn! For this price? Whaaaaaat. The amaebi tastes fresh as well as slightly sweet, and is topped with masago. Continuing to the toro, the slices are nicely cut and taste fresh as well as fatty. Up last, the salmon nigiri tastes fresh as well as buttery.


This is the part when I felt bad. We asked the waitress a few questions and she had to go back and forth to confirm with the sushi chef. After letting us know that the deluxe assorted sashimi comes with salmon as well as tuna and other fishes, we asked if ika or tai could be omitted just in case. She was so friendly and came back just to confirm that we said ika, not ikura because we ordered an ikura nigiri too!
Starting with the ebi, it tastes generic, packaged like always and not too chewy. Next, the sockeye salmon tastes fresh and has a leaner taste compared to atlantic. Moving to the hokkigai; like the ebi, it tastes generic, packaged like usual and has a slight barely distinguishable flavour, but I always enjoy them.

Next, the hotate and ikura. My friend went behind my back and asked for a small piece of seaweed! Yes, I am a cheap Asian and occasionally like to save, which includes saving even $0.10 for the restaurant. I did not want her to ask for any seaweed because of the way it is cut for nigiri and rolls. In order to give us a piece, the sushi chef would have to give us a whole sheet of seaweed cut up which is wasteful, considering that she wanted just one small piece for the ikura. So, we ended up with at least six pieces and surprisingly the restaurant did not charge us for the seaweed (considering that Toyko Thyme charged $0.50 for two small pieces).

The hotate is one large scallop sliced in half and tastes refreshing. As for the ikura, it tastes like soft squishy bursting balls along with a salty taste. Again, I appreciate the restaurant for slightly rinsing the ikura so the exterior is not as slimy.

Continuing with the deluxe assorted sashimi, the next item is the tuna which is a proper cut of the lower body portion and tastes fresh. Next, the atlantic salmon tastes fresh as well as fatty. Further on, the tako is sliced thin which makes it easier to eat and not too chewy. Up next, the tuna tataki is evenly seared and quite tasty. Moving along, the hamachi has that nice bright burgundy red color, tastes fresh and is a favourite of mine. Coming close to the end is the saba, which has a small knife cut at the top of each slice to secure the green onion for those who prefer adding, and has a pleasant fishy as well as sweet taste.

Second to last is the toro sashimi. For sushi fanatics and other people out there, take notes; this is how a slice of toro sashimi is supposed to look like. A generously thick slice but in a narrow formation. Not a flat and thin slice resembling a cut of nigiri which is what a lot of restaurants do. By the way, I ate mine too fast and made my friend stop eating half way just to take a photo of hers LOL. So this is only half a slice. And of course, saving the best for last is the amaebi. The amaebi are fresh large sized spot prawns! The heads are also deep fried for those who like to eat the brains (not the whole head..  like what surprisingly some people enjoy. The head is really sharp yenno!).

The appetizer tempura includes two prawns, one zucchini, egg plant, yam and broccoli. Although I prefer the flakier type of batter, the tempura tastes really good! The tempura is lightly battered and very tasty. Starting with the prawns, the restaurant uses jumbo sized prawns which is always preferred rather than medium one stretched, and the prawns taste meaty with a nice snap. Next, the zucchini tastes moist; the eggplant tastes juicy; and the yam tastes moist as well as slightly sweet. Last up is my favourite, the broccoli is perfectly deep fried with a nice crunch. This is definitely the proper way to make tempura and none of the pieces were oily as well.

The hawaiian roll is basically a simple california roll with mango, topped with hamachi then seared, with fresh slices of ripe avocado placed in between some sushi. The roll has a good amount of fresh as well as ripe diced mango (not canned like Kishimoto's) and the sauces taste extremely light and compliments the roll well. As for the hamachi, the slices have a tasty seared flavour and although enjoyable, I preferred eating the sashimi separate. This way, I was able to taste more mango in the roll as well as the flavourful seared hamachi taste.

The soft shell crab is really meaty and lightly battered. Furthermore, with such a light perfect amount of rice, the taste of the soft shell crab is definitely the highlight. As for the topped tuna tataki, I preferred eating it separate because all together, it overwhelmed and hid the taste of the crab meat.

TOTAL: $88.00 + TIP $17.00  = $105.00.

Overall, we tipped 20% because our waitress was friendly and the food was obviously great. The sushi chef took his time, knows what he is doing and puts the effort in. Can I also be biased and mention that the restaurant is IN COQUITLAM? Wow. Find me a restaurant like this in Vancouver and I will be more than happy to visit! Kaya Japanese is one restaurant that I am more than glad to spend my money at.

- Sushi chef that cares
- Amazing value and great quality
- Everything is properly done, no complaints
- One of the best Japanese restaurants that I have been too
- The older waitress was friendly as well as genuine

- Limited parking in the area
- The younger waitress needs to know how to fake customer service. If the food was just average or a bit above, I would not come back because there are too many Japanese restaurants, correct? Especially for those who really do not care what they eat!

- With such a large amount of Japanese restaurants available, many forget and of course there are those who just want the "bang for your buck" (which is fine as I do too sometimes), that sushi is supposed to be "art." And although the presentation for the rolls that we ordered do not look special, one of the things that lured me in was a couple of photos of the caterpillar as well as the worm and dragon roll; the sushi chef makes an effort to add whiskers, eyes, etc…
- The bill was roughly the same as the three restaurants that I mentioned earlier, but the quality is a lot better with a more than reasonable value and the sushi chef tries to be creative
- Werther's candy was also given with the bill

Food: 3.5/5 (including the price, 4/5)
Service: 3.5/5

Kaya Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon


  1. Thank you Piggy for the detailed post! Some questions for you,

    Is Kaya an authentic Japanese restaurant?
    Would you have rated the restaurant differently if the prices are higher?
    How is the portion size?

    1. Hey Hello Kitty! Thanks for not leaving your name as anonymous like what most people do haha. By authenticity, do you mean Japanese owned? The restaurant is Korean owned and to be honest, just because a restaurant is Japanese owned, does not mean that the food will be absolutely the best. It is not hard to keep sashimi at the right temperature, make smooth cuts, or to know which portions to use. However, the key here IMO is that sushi chefs need to make an effort in their work and to be more creative (although it is understandable why some may choose not to since it takes more time and well truth is, some people do not care). I only feel this way with “pricier” sushi places or expect it when I hear many people rave about it.

      And if the prices were higher, such as double (except for the deluxe sashimi), I would be more than happy to pay double, because that is around what Kamei Baru, Kamei Royale and Ebisu charges. Plus, the quality, cut as well as portion is here. Meaning, I would not have rated the restaurant any different if the prices were higher.

      For the portion size, the portion is great. From the photos, you cannot see the amount of diced mango and soft shell crab, but there was plenty in the roll. It was not just about the portion to me, it was about that everything is properly done! I respect a sushi chef that makes the effort.
      I have to say, this is the best Japanese restaurant that I have been to in Coquitlam. Fuji Sushi was alright, Nagano is pricey but the quality, meaning proper portions to be served is not always there and there is not much creativity, and Matoi Sushi… well, on my visit, the hamachi was not fresh and they are a Japanese owned restaurant as well.

      I get bashed as to why I am so uptight about sushi and the reason is, if I am able to get an amazing quality of sashimi at an AYCE restaurant, better than Japanese owned restaurants that charge higher prices, why visit the Japanese restaurants then right?

  2. Nagano sushi is so expensive, can't wait to try this restaurant. Have you tried Hanamori?

    1. I already want to revisit! Let me know how your visit goes :). As for Hanamori, I have once and thought it was alright, no complains.

    2. Whoops! I thought you meant Hanamomo or other one. I recently went to Hanamori which I have not before and thought it was only okay, Kaya is a lot better imo!



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