Repeatable: Yes. Visits: 2
Atmosphere is usually not a significant part of the dining experience when you eat Korean. But for every adventurous diner who relishes the cheap thrills of eating in grungy surroundings, there are others who eschew dinginess and insist on the total package. With Shoreline’s Kaya (20109 Aurora N, #102, 546-2840), there’s finally a place where these two types can sit down at the same table.
If I were the owners of Everett’s Kawon, I’d throw some significant change into remodeling, because Kaya offers seriously good food in a seriously fine atmosphere. The dark wood and sleek lighting feel like something out of a Vegas bar, except that over every table there’s a massive venting hood. On a recent Sunday night at 5:30pm, the entire cavernous space was filled to bursting with beautiful young things who were not only paying attention to the food but to each other as well.
Kaya is the Seattle outpost of a notable LA chef, who has brought a refined touch to certain classics like thinly sliced beef. Here, there are three dipping sauces to choose from instead of just the traditional sesame seed oil-salt mix. The marinaded meats are perfectly flavored, and all grill options come with the requisite assortment of banchan, salad, and soup. Maybe the assortment isn’t as generously varied as it is at Kawon, but it’s certainly as tasty.
Kaya also serves a mean naengmyun, the cold buckwheat noodle soup that is, for many Koreans of a certain age, de rigeur slurping after every golf game. The broth–a gorgeously clear beef consomme–is served partly frozen, so that the noodles are suspended in something that resembles in texture a melting Slurpy. Add vinegar and hot mustard to taste, and you have an absolutely brilliant hot weather lunch.
Soups, such as yukhwejahng, the spicy shredded beef soup, daengjang, spicy miso, are all hearty, made to order, and extremely tasty.
Closer to Seattle by half the distance, Kaya will definitely start pulling away some of Kawon’s regulars. The menu is more expansive, and the prices extremely reasonable. Throw in the grown-up atmosphere, and you have an actual contender for a Korean restaurant that can also be considered a fine dining destination.