By | April 14, 2006


2000 Smallman St
Strip District, 15222
M-W 11:30-10; Thurs-Sat 11:30-11; Sun 12-9

OK, so I don’t like Kaya. I’m not saying their food is putrid, or that their atmosphere is not delightful, but I think I have decided I don’t like it. I realize that everyone else in the world loves Kaya, but I’m going to go against the grain. For me, Kaya has just been a series of disappointments – I really can’t say that I’ve ever had anything I’ve loved there. And this isn’t one of those cases where I’ve only been once or twice. I’ve been to Kaya a lot, and not only was it better 5 years ago than it is now, but also I don’t think it was that amazing to begin with. Kaya, you have to do more than just use an interesting ingredient – you have to live up.

The worst night I’ve ever had at Kaya’s was the time that the portions were so small that we had to go out for sushi afterwards, making that night the winner of the “Most Expensive Dinner in the Pittsburgh” award. The best night I ever had at Kaya’s was years earlier, sipping Cosmos with my good college friend Matt A., catching up on a summer gone by. The drinks were great, but the meals lackluster.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes the food can be OK. God damn it, it always sounds so frackin’ good when you read the menu!! Man, everything sounds so inspired!

Sample A – $21
Pepita Crusted Fluke: sweet plantain, peruano bean and anaheim pepper sauté, garlic and white wine sauce

Sample B – $22
Adobo Marinated Flank Steak: curried roasted butternut squash and apple sauté, sugar snap peas, molé

Sample C – $26
Labelle Farms Duck Breast: corn pancakes, sugar snap pea, and shiitake mushroom sauté, mandarin orange gastrique

Sounds amazing, does it not? There’s all the gastriques, aioli, and remoulades one could hope for! By the time I order, I am salivating with excitement! But then I’m served my meal, and it turns out that it’s a good thing there is all that saliva in there; the fish is so dry that I need the lube just to choke it down!

And do you see that list of flavors? I think, ‘my god, if they can pull off molé and curry in the same bite I’m gonna have a new hero!’ Sadly, I’m still stuck with Aquaman, because I’ve been failed every time. Maybe if they just did curry + molé, but then they go and marinate the steak in adobo, another strong flavor, plus they add roasted squash, apples, and peas for the sweet. My tongue is under assault! The flavors just never meld right!

I think the real problem is that they build me up so high. I’m always so excited, and then so disheartened. No wonder I am bitter! (Yet another well-featured flavor in the dishes) How can I ignore over three dozen let-downs over an eight year time period? And maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t overpriced. You might say I am expecting too much, but why shouldn’t I expect it to be as good as they purport?! I’m challenging them to live up to my expectations! Kaya, can you do it? I’ll keep trying, I’ll keep going back – I believe you can do it but… I’m really losing faith.

Drinks (the bar is awesome)
Yucatan Bean Dip
Sandwiches and Vegetarian Items (they usually come in larger portions and are far cheaper)

I’m too disillusioned to say

Both of the mentioned Best and the Worst experiences were in Kaya’s outdoor seating area, which I really wish I could say was great. However, on both occasions the service was worse, the trucks of the Strip District were loud, the trash was stinky, and they just couldn’t get the music volume right (triple forte or pianissimo seemed to be the only options). I’m personally addicted to outdoor seating so I’d do it again, but if you are sensitive about any of the above mentioned points, then you might be happier inside! The atmosphere in there is way awesome anyway!

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