Last Friday, the day after I returned from Detroit, we cruised down the coast from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles.
We were headed down to attend a housewarming party on Saturday at Dockweiler Beach, but I wanted to investigate downtown L.A. and check out the Japanese Beer Garden special going on this summer at CHAYA (Mon – Fri, 4 p.m. to close).
An early arrival allowed us some time to walk around the city in the area of 5th and Flower. Pretty impressive, I must say – very clean and comfortable, not to mention beautiful as the late-afternoon sun shines on the tall buildings. The area isn’t exactly booming – it’s mostly office buildings and such – but CHAYA was awfully popular on a Friday night at 7 p.m.
I use “popular” because crowded wouldn’t be the correct word – I didn’t feel cramped at all and CHAYA is pretty unique in the sense that it is essentially four settings in one: a bar area with a glass-window view of the skyline, a sushi bar, a classy dining room, and an outside patio.
The latter is where the Beer Garden Special takes place, with a Yakitori grill in the corner and a bar in the center of the patio. Since the style of the special is essentially the Japanese version of tapas, I was hell-bent on sampling a little bit of everything.
We began with booze.
I mean, how could we not? We were sitting outside in the open air in the warm L.A. evening, seeing the women in their dresses and the businessmen unwinding after a long week.
The $12 premium sake flight (3 kinds of sake – Rock, Gekkeikan Haiku and Gekkeikan Horin) was another story – this was no table sake – and I was enjoying it so much that I ordered another, and my excitement resulted in my friend bumming a glass off the second round (Rock Sake was my favorite).
I love long, relaxed meals (especially lunch) where you can order little-by-little, one thing at a time. I communicated this to our waitress and she was more than accommodating, putting up with our many questions and answering all of them with a smile and personal opinion/recommendation.
At $2 each, the skewers from the Yakitori grill are a great place to start – chicken, beef, beef tongue, shrimp, mushroom, or bacon wrapped date (they were out of the dates, unfortunately). They are all tasty and nice to pick on while you look over the rest of the menu.
The Coffee BBQ Pork is very tender and comes with a spicy dipping sauce, but I did not get much of a coffee taste (I would still order it again, though).
My friend is not a fish or sushi eater, but even he enjoyed the Albacore Tuna Poki. I thought it was a solid dish.
The Soy Braised Short Rib is served Sukiyaki style (Japanese hot pot) and might have been my favorite dish. It came with carrots and potatoes and reminded me of a homemade beef stew – kind of cool to see the styles merge.