Island of Gourmet Eurasia – The Chaya Restaurant Downtown LA
I am not a very risky person, especially when it comes to food. I don’t particularly like experimenting and tend to just stick with my favorite: Italian cuisine. Or I really happen to like the Wokcano menu, or lukshon restaurant, if I’m feeling really risky. For those who are really adventurous, I would suggest taking a look at this Orsa and Winston restaurant review.
I work in an office building on downtown S. Flower Street, which is the main artery of the city and provides a spectacular choice of some of the best restaurants in Los Angeles to satisfy all kinds of hungry people. That day, one of our company’s partners was coming all the way from Chicago, and it was my responsibility to meet him at a business dinner and brief for the following day’s conference.
As I have already said, I am absolutely in love with Italian food. With that in my head, I tried to make reservations at one of the Italian restaurants close to the office. To my huge surprise, every place I knew was fully booked, and I started to panic. After looking at some lists and reading a few reviews, I started surfing through websites of other places and ended up reserving a table at Chaya Restaurant in DTLA, because it was the only one in the area which had a table available.
Chaya offers customers a simple to use reservation form on their website, which also provides the address and an average cost of the meal. The table was reserved for 7 pm.
I can’t say I wasn’t nervous about how this was going to go, since I was putting myself into an unusual situation by going to an important business dinner in a place with food I didn’t think I’d be particularly fond of. But there was no choice, so I started to look for some adequate parking information I could provide my partner with. And again, Chaya’s website came in very handy and on its main page I found all the relevant info:
Valet/Self-Parking available at the City National Bank Plaza underground parking garage- LEVEL A.
Lunchtime: $5 for the first 3 hours with validation, then posted rates apply thereafter.
Dinnertime: Complimentary parking for the first 4 hours with validation/ $7 flat rate thereafter.
Complimentary shuttle service available to the Staples Center, Nokia Theater & Music Center.
Go East or West, Chaya is the best
Chaya is located in the most attractive part of the city, just like dozens of other popular and great places in LA. 525 S. Flower Street is diagonally across the street from the CitiBank building and close to the bus stop. The rule of “no chance of finding a parking spot” applies to this place just like it does to any other restaurant in the city center, so using a valet is highly recommended. I am also sure that you will enjoy taking a walk there as S. Flower Street has a charming atmosphere and tells so much about LA and its lifestyle, especially if you are not a local. It’s always warm here, so don’t hesitate.
390 years history of serving outstanding Japanese cuisine
Yes, you read that right. The first Hikage Chaya was a tea house and opened almost 4 centuries ago in Hayama, Japan. The founding family, Tsunoda, started expanding the business and went into French bistros and pastry shops as a tea provider. The brand was introduced to the United States in 1984 when a Chaya Brasserie was opened in Beverly Hills. Nowadays one of the best Japanese restaurants in downtown Los Angeles, Chaya also has locations in Venice, San Francisco, and LAX, and differences in cuisine and style are influenced by the location.
Another exciting fact I found out while dining at Chaya is that this restaurant hosted the Master Chef culinary show with Gordon Ramsey recently, which is, of course, is a very smart marketing move, but also tells us a lot about Japanese hospitality traditions.
Chaya’s Executive Chef Shigefumi Tachibe has been in charge of the restaurant’s menus in California since the 80’s. After years and years spent in the kitchen, he became a nationally-acclaimed chef and innovator. For those of you Tuna Tartar lovers, it will be nice to know that Chef Tachibe is the dish’s inventor. Chaya’s classics have always been Seaweed Salad and Rib Eye, Pork and Duck Rillettel, Braised Lamb Osso Bucco, and Bacon wrapped Monk Fish, while the newer menu offers foodies an exclusive blend of two famous yet vastly different world cuisines – French and Japanese.
Urban chic, French elegance spiced with Japanese traditions
A restaurant doesn’t get to become one of LA’s favorites only because of good food. Chaya’s indoor ambiance is simply incredible. I walked in the restaurant a bit early for my meeting and was seated very quickly, which got me thinking that walk-ins are not that common here. When I asked a hostess about it, she said that they try to seat every client and would never say no to me if I walked in, which was very flattering. The waiter showed up seconds later and gave me the bar menu. The bar menu offers a large selection of cocktails and beers, which pushed me to thinking that I would need to come back here next time with some friends and enjoy the outside bar. I ordered sparkling water and said I am waiting for someone else to join.
As I was waiting, I could not stop looking around me. The atmosphere here is something different. The decorations give the place a charming, elegant feel. The interior looks very modern. I think that classy French and minimalistic Japanese traditions work together very well here. I decided to explore some more and see the outside lounge. I was stunned by the area and the relaxing feeling it gives. Decorated with pink cherry blossoms and bonsai trees, it makes the space very romantic and adds electricity to the ambiance.
Japanese hospitality and attention to detail
My partner walked in about 10 minutes after I did, and as soon as he joined me at the table, our waiter was back to us with menus.
As we were looking through them, I had to admit that I know very little about Japanese cuisine and felt lost, so we decided to ask our waiter to help us with choices. As the evening went along, I appreciated how the staff was attentive but not overbearing. I could see that this would be a good place to talk about business while eating some delicious food.
Chaya menu offerings:
- The tasting menu: The Original Tuna Tartar with the prepared tableside and avocado, micro shiso, crispy crostin – 1st course. For the 2nd course you may try Japanese Wagyu Risotto with organic mushrooms, while the 3rd course is Miso White Sea Bass or a Peppered Venison Loin with chestnut pureé. Price: 3-courses $55 or 4-courses $70
Bar menu + Beer Graden specialties: If you choose to enjoy the bar area, you can indulge yourself with something like Kushiyaki Skewers (Japanese kebabs) of chicken breast, lamb, and mushrooms, or try their combo. Besides numerous alcoholic drinks, which include a Japanese sake selection; draft or bottled beer; sparkling, white and red wine; and a signature cocktail list; the bar also serves Homemade Vegetable Root Chips, Crispy Sesame Chicken, Fish Tacos, Wasabi Guaucamole, Grilled Calamari, and even a BBQ menu.
- Lunch menu: This menu features the Daily Kaisen Market of seafood (prepared daily by the chef), Downtown Power Lunch – Cheeseburger & French Fries or Organic Greens, Chef’s Daily Bento, Today’s Simply Grilled Fish, soup of the day, and selections of sashimi. Appetizers include olive tapenade, goat cheese salad, yellowtail crudo and more. Entrée salads: classic Asian chicken salad, Pepper seared ahi tuna. Pastas: Marine Lobster&Shrimp ravioli or Apappardelle Bolognesse with American Kobe. Entrees: roasted salmon with lotus rot chip, grilled chicken with French fries and Dijon seabass, short ribs and vegetable ragout. You may also add extra Chaya Garlic French Fries for $6.
- Dinner menu: Daily Kaisen Market selection of fresh seafood including scallops, shrimp, Ahi Poke, Lobster, Crab, oysters, and whole fish. All of it can be cooked to your preference: deep fried, baked in sea salt, grilled or acqua pazza. Starters include various appetizers you’d find at typical French or Japanese restaurants, like pork ribs, seared salmon batttera, sashimi, tuna tartar King crab mac&cheese. Soups&salads: soup of the day, spicy Asian bouillabaisse, seaweed salad or quinoa & Tuscan kale salad. Chaya classics: Maine lobster & shrimp ravioli, grilled chicken, miso marinated seabass or veal chop; choose whatever you feel like. Sides: pea risotto, broccolini pepperoncini, pommes frites, edamame and more. Desserts: Chaya profiterole, Fallen Chocolate cake, pistachio chocolate chip cookies, and even a cheese plate trio.
Also, don’t ignore the selection of organic Asian teas: Earl Gray, Jasmine tea, chamomile or some flavored Chinese teas.
My Delicious Dinner
My experimental dinner consisted of: grilled sweet corn, calamari, bacon wrapped dates, and grilled oysters as an appetizer; strawberry, beets & arugula salad; Maine Lobster & Rock Shrimp Ravioli for the main dish (I had to go a little Italian even here just to try what is their interpretation of Ravioli); and a French apple tart for a dessert.
Our starters were served about five minutes after we ordered, and guess what, they looked amazing. Of course, it is nothing like any other typical restaurant in America, portions are rather small, but they look very sophisticated, colorful and tasteful. The grilled sweet corn, calamari, bacon wrapped dates and grilled oysters made my day. First of all, the sweet corn was really incredibly sweet and tender, the calamari were not overly battered and felt like just the right texture, and the bacon wrapped dates and grilled oysters added all kinds of flavor mixture to the overall experience, giving a perfect combination of sweet, salty and sour.
We finished with the starters pretty fast, exchanged our opinions on the food, and started talking about business. Salads were served a couple of minutes after we were done with appetizers. I cannot say anything very special about the salad; it was decent, though not surprising or anything different. To be honest, I did not expect too much from a salad, but was looking forward to trying the main course.
I can swear that the waiter was watching over the dynamics at our table because the main courses came in at a perfect time. As I keep mentioning, I love Italian food with all of its creamy sauces; fortunately, my Maine Lobster & Rock Shrimp Ravioli were just the creaminess level that I like. All I can say about this dish – I simply loved it! All the seafood was well cooked and seasoned, while the creamy basil and marinara sauces worked together perfectly. I also thought that shiitake mushrooms were a great idea in this dish, although I usually don’t mix seafood with mushrooms.
Great food helped us to keep the conversation going and definitely saved the meeting that evening.
The apple tart, which came together with sorbet, was a perfect conclusion to the meal. I love fruity desserts and this is exactly what I needed – not too much sugar,very rich in taste, and light all at the same time.
Business lunch, romantic dinner or drinks at the bar – try Chaya restaurant
I was pretty much forced into this experiment, but I haven’t regretted my decision even for a second. Chaya restaurant Los Angeles deserves to be called one of the best Eurasian cuisine places in the heart of our city. Now my friends want me to go with them to this Asian-fusion place that’s supposed to be one of the top Culver City restaurants, we’ll see if I make it!
It offers stellar service, gorgeous, luxurious design, and most importantly – amazing food for a reasonable price. The place is big enough to fit a big party, has a communal table and some private tables suitable for either a romantic dinner during the evening or a daytime business lunch. The outside bar is simply a treat. Next time, I will be eating dinner inside and definitely staying longer to hang out there. All the food I saw at our table looked like a masterpiece. The combination of French and Japanese cultures works perfectly in Chaya restaurant and is implemented by the staff with love. Even though you can not compare the size of portions to those in a steakhouse, they were adequately sized and priced. An average dinner at Chaya costs from $31 to $50 and is going to be worth every penny.
Chaya also hosts an Annual Beer Garden and organizes a lot of fun events. If you are looking for fusion cuisine with a great atmosphere, Chaya restaurant Downtown LA is the place to go. I rate it 10 out of 10!
Take a look at Lukshon Restaurant in Los Angeles for another great Asian restaurant!