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Kaya, Pittsburgh, PA
Date August 2, 2012
Author Chef Chuck

Kaya Restaurant, Pittsburgh

Kaya Restaurant, Pittsburgh

After attending an event in the Strip, I decided to get a bite to eat with a fellow attendee. We weren’t looking for anything too formal, but were interested in getting some quality fare. I had been to Kaya many years ago, and remembered having a good experience, so we stopped in.

It was a warm summer evening, and many hungry patrons were seated outside enjoying tropical drinks. It was quite warm, so we chose to sit inside.
The interior at Kaya is festive. The walls were covered with warm tropical colors, and the tile on the bar was in a mosaic pattern. The entryway and front end of the restaurant are narrow, so we had to be careful while we were being shown to our table.

Kaya Bar

Kaya Bar

We ordered a Corona (with lime) and white sangria- both drinks adequately quenched out thirsts as we looked over the menu. The food at Kaya is described as island fare.

White Sangria

White Sangria

I immediately chose the Tuna Tartare (11.00) as an appetizer. We also wanted to try the Conch Fritters ($9.00) with tropical tartar sauce. Other starters included Salmon Crab Cakes with Jalapeno Remoulade ($9.00), Sweet and Spicy Baby Back Ribs ($11.00), Crisp Calamari ($9.00), and Blue Bay Mussels ($10.00).

The tuna tartare arrived first and was served with poblano, scallion, avocado, lime, chile oil, crema, and large curly bands of deep-fried bananas. The tuna was perfectly fresh and buttery. The scallions and chile oil added necessary heat to the mild, raw fish. Oily chunks of ripe avocado provided texture, and taste balance. Placing large scoops of the tuna, crema, and cilantro on the crispy banana proved to be particularly scrumptious.

Tuna Tartare

Tuna Tartare

The conch fritters arrived looking a little over-cooked. After a few bites, I concluded that the quality of the dish was suffering from some aged fryer oil. That being said, the battered treat was flavorful and crisp. The tropical tartar sauce helped cool down the fritters, and enhanced the soft flavors.

Conch Fritters

Conch Fritters

conch shell

Conch Shell

Our entrees were served immediately after our appetizer plates were cleared. Since our bellies were quickly becoming full, we would split the Crispy Fish Tacos ($17.00). One of the reasons I chose the fish tacos, is because the tortillas on which they are served are provided by Reyna’s. Reyna’s is a small Mexican food outlet that provides authentic food products. They’re famous for having hard to find items like real enchilada sauce (Las Palmas), homemade salsas, and even Mexican jumping beans!

Our fish tacos arrived on two separate plates (a kind gesture considering I asked if we could share an entree- restaurants frown upon this). The flour tortillas were grilled, and stuffed with corn meal coated fried tilapia. Also inside were cabbage slaw, avocado, spicy crème fraiche, and cilantro.

The tacos were amazing- the fish was perfectly cooked, and the soft, doughy tortillas were warm and chewy. The shredded cabbage slaw was seasoned, and tart; it added a nice crunch to the dish. Silky crème fraiche and perfectly matured avocado slices concluded the flavor-festival.

Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos

Kaya is a great place to go for a meal. Not only does it have a festive atmosphere, the food is excellent.

Chef Chuck Kerber

Cooksandeats.com

chuck@cooksandeats.com

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3 Responses to Kaya, Pittsburgh, PA

  1. Lisa says:

    I went there for lunch about 6 months ago and hated it. I got the conch fritters and they were overlooked on the outside and gooey and undercooked on the inside. That said they did take it off our bill when they noticed we didn’t eat them. I thought the place way so-so. Maybe dinner is better than lunch and I would certainly try again….

  2. Jackie A. says:

    Going there tonight and I am dying to try the fish tacos! Thanks for the thorough review. :)

    -Jackie

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