I have been to “Kaya, Malay Bistro” a handful of times now, since their opening in 2012. Hailing from Brunei, I find Malaysian cuisine homey, so have admittedly visited most of the Malaysian restaurants in the lower mainland. This one is not only the most convenient for me, but I find each time I visit they seem to have introduced something new to their menu or to the way they host.
Today it was the addition of happy hour with a $4 menu. This is now available Monday to Fridays from 5-7pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 12-3pm. $4 tapas and beers including calamari, roti, curry somosas, vegetarian spring rolls, satay, and more. This means that they offer more than most places also hosting happy hour, although they might not be your traditional choice.
They also have the option of all you can eat on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30-2:30pm at $18.95 a person. With over 29 savoury items, including desserts to choose from; this is definitely a good deal. Vegetarian items, noodles and rice, tapas, and meat dishes.
But today, we as media were invited to try an exclusive and new tasting menu. But first, the disclaimer: When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
We were given the full experience of their new tasting menu, in celebration of their 5th anniversary. This is a set list of eight dishes brought together at a set price of $38 per person. A couple of them new menu items, but majority familiar favourites, that you would have ordered anyways. This menu (pictured) would not be regularly advertised in house or offered as an add on when you are seated. The only way to have the following for yourself is to come in knowing about it, due to its extensive coverage on social media; by us food bloggers and social media influencers. A very clever way to bring new bodies in through a new channel and to monitor our combined social influencer and blogger reach.
But not only that, “Kaya” is willing to double down and offer their new social media friends an additional 50% off on this tasting menu. All you have to do is follow them on their social media channels at @kayamalay on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and like one of their photos to be able to reference the deal. This would make the already affordable menu, $38 for 2 people, for an 8 course meal. My photos below are reflective of this deal of two can dine for $38. Although in order to maintain the quality of such an elaborate set, only 10 servings will be prepared daily, so to get yours, come early and make your reservations quick to capitalize. This will be running from today (June 24) to August 31, 2017. So if you love it, you can come back and enjoy it over and over again until the summer’s end. And if you didn’t, it would have cost you $20 to try something new, well worth the experience points.
The business major in me loved the idea, of them having a way to track our reach. Restaurants and PR teams invite us in to eat and cover their restaurants and events and we in turn have footage for our various media channels, making it a symbiotic relationship. And now there would be a way to track the success of this partnership. So let’s see how well this works. If you are reading this, go!
And since you are already saving so much, I strongly suggest ordering a share size bowl of rice; as I reference wanting a base a couple of times below.
Once again all the the dishes to follow are presented for two to share, catalogued as we received them. We started with the “Acar Awak”, which is pickled vegetables in a spicy and sour dressing. I often describe it as being like salsa and kimchi combined, however this is a variation that I am not use to. This version wasn’t spicy, it was less saucy and more water-logged, and the pineapple was a interesting add on. Its tangy-ness is ideal as a side dish, instead of a meal starter. I suggest leaving this one the side to nibble on in conjunction with all the dishes below. Especially with the deep fried and heavier spiced dishes.
The “coconut and cumin king prawn soup” was a great dish to warm up with. It is easy to sip with plenty of strong flavours. Each spoonful left you with a deep tickle at the back of your throat, one that continued to warm and linger. It was warming where as its chunks of the tomato. button mushroom, and half prawn offered some cooling elements. They were also nice to nibble on for a change in texture.
The “Satay chicken” did not disappoint. Charcoal grilled, marinated skewers served with a chunky peanut dip. This is a classic that I have ordered from them before, that is exactly as I expect it to be. Tender and tasty chicken with a great smoke char, only exemplified by the nutty peanut buttery sauce.
The “Roti canai” was a little bland by comparison, but only because all that came before it were such stand outs. Hand rolled, layered flat bread with a curry sauce for dipping. The roti was nice and chewy with light folded layers.
For entrees we had a dish of deep fried “mini soft shell crab”. They were easy to eat with a quick pop in your mouth. They were sautéed with fresh onion, garlic, shallots, mild chilli and fresh Indian black peppercorn. Each bundle was fairly flavourful, but I would have still liked a sauce to help balance the oils of the thorough deep fry, and to change its taste mid way. It is here the pickled vegetable from above was most helpful. The idea of a sweet chilli sauce, a dressing with wine, or even a wedge of lemon were thrown out by the group.
The “seafood bouillabaisse in Assam curry sauce” had prawn, fish, mussel, and cuttlefish; all swimming in a spicy turmeric and coconut sauce. Seasoned with tamarind, galangal, lemongrass and ginger. It wasn’t the Assam flavour I had and remembered from my trip to Malaysia a few months back, but I still found it a great retelling. As a bouillabaisse, I wanted some crispy bread to have it with, but some rice here would have done wonders. I ended up drinking down all the sauce, as I enjoyed it that much.
The “Sambal chilli trio” was another that would have been improved having it over a bowl of steamed white rice. It is a mix of stir fried okra, eggplant, and green beans with shrimp, tomato, and shrimp; all in a belacan paste. The vegetables were kept crisp with a nice texture to chew on. No complaints.
And for dessert we ended the meal with their “Pandan cheese panna cotta”. It was a great idea and something I was very excited for, as I don’t see much pandan offered in the city. However, there is such as thing as too much pandan flavouring. It gave the dessert a great colour, but I found it combated too much against the cheesy and already rich flavour of the panna cotta. I wanted light and creamy from this, whereas this was more dense like a mousse. The fresh strawberry slice helped to lighten up the dish, but there was not enough of it to ration with each and every bite. However, I like pandan so much that I would have and order it again.
Not included in the menu, but is on their list of fruity, non-alcoholic drinks is their refreshing “Ginger citrus soda”. I had one to help cool off with. Hand pressed lemon, lime and orange; shaken with fresh juices and soda with your choice of mint or basil. I went mint for a more mojito-esque feel.
And thus ends our social media menu tasting. Once again a great deal, one that I recommend taking advantage of and trying for yourself.
To get a better feel of the decor and setting of place (as it really hasn’t changed) and/or to get a glimpse of how “Kalay” was four years ago, check on my first visit review by clicking on the link below.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Not many Malaysian restaurants in the city, and their fusion approach keeps things modern and creative. Don’t deny your cravings.