Kaya Malay Bistro is a relatively new player on Vancouver’s West Broadway corridor. I’d missed the grand opening party, so when my friend Stephanie Yuen invited me to dine along with a group of Vancouver food lovers, I marked the date on my calendar, ready for a Malaysian taste experience.
The ambiance is modern, clean, and friendly, with white lighting alongside the entryway leading to the main dining room. We started the evening with a couple of different fruit-based cocktails, while conversing and waiting for the rest of the party to arrive. Our group was then seated in a private room upstairs, an area suitable for about 20-30 guests.
I haven’t yet been to Malaysia, so my palate isn’t used to authentic food comparisons. That said, many of the dishes that I did try packed a slight to medium heat. Kaya’s main menu ranges from tapas, soups, salads, noodle dishes, to seafood, meat, veggies, and desserts. And while durian and okra are acquired tastes in my book, I greatly enjoyed the sate, sautéed green beans served with pan-fried halibut, and the hearty squash and apple curry bisque, served alongside home made roti with curry dipping sauce.
Our first dish was the Kaya Salad, a lovely combination of dried cranberries, peanuts, romaine lettuce, boiled egg, potatoes, mango and deep-fried tofu with a mango and peanut butter dressing. The mango was the only component of the dish that didn’t seem to fit in with the rest; I loved the peanut taste throughout the salad.
The squash and apple curry bisque is hearty and makes a wonderful compliment to the homemade roti served with curry dipping sauce. I’ve tasted Chef Chang’s roti at EBO Restaurant, and while EBO’s forms a good basis for comparison, I found this roti a little less fluffy than their restaurant’s version.
Calamari with taro root was served next, in a tamarind chili sauce. Not a big fan of calamari, however the taro was tasteful and combined with the tamarind, went down nicely with a BC rosé.
Deboned Hainanese chicken prepared two ways – with two accompanying sauces – was flavourful and worked with a portion of chicken rice, however it was the chicken satay skewers, with moist pieces of peanut-infused meat that I found more to my liking.
I’ve eaten lot of Indonesian chicken sate while I lived in The Netherlands (a country fueled by Indonesian fare), and Kaya’s peanut sauce is a winner. I made sure that the sauce stayed nearby for dipping into many other ingredients.
The pan-fried halibut was served with another favourite: sautéed sambal green beans. The sweet, slightly spicy sauce doesn’t outweigh the crispiness of the beans. I’d order these on their own any day.
By the time the grilled rack of lamb arrived at the table, we were enjoying a glass of Prospect Winery’s Cabernet Merlot, marrying very well with the beans from the halibut together with the lamb’s tenderness.
A dessert trio ended our meal. I liked the tapioca and coconut cream cup and the banana fritter, however durian is still something I’m learning to appreciate, especially with its unique scent that can be detected long before the first bite is taken. The roll’s wrapper (made with pandan leaf) however was very tasty!
We dined on the eight course tasting menu ($28/person; add $7 for two wine pairings) with a few variations from the website’s listing.
The service was attentive, and I noticed that despite our group’s large size, each table received the courses at the same time and the pacing between the dishes gave us enough time to sit back and relax.
Many thanks to Chef Lim, General Manager Scott Kwan, and Stephanie Yuen for putting this fantastic dinner menu together for our enjoyment. Kaya Malay Bistro is located at 1063 West Broadway, just west of Oak Street in Vancouver. Visit Kaya Malay’s website for dine-in and take out menus.