This new (only opened 2 weeks ago) eatery is located on the ocean and US1 N in Saddle Bunch Keys (about 15 miles north of Key West). The building once housed another restaurant but Kaya is thus far much different (in a good way). Based on its name, you can probably guess that the menu has a tropical theme which goes in line with the locale. And the owner, Scott, grew up in Hawaii and became a partner at the famed Key West restaurant, Blue Heaven, so it all fits. This also gives one a lot of hope for this spot as the locals really need another good restaurant in this area. Scott has already made some major improvements to the building with beautiful signage and a very tropical decor inside. The place definitely draws you in.
There is still a bit more work to do though, and here is what I mean. The space has the potential from transforming from just a local place to eat to an upscale, romantic restaurant on the water. But the acoustics are horrible. So, Scott is working on getting some beautiful sound proofing tiles made to hang in the dining area that will help tone down the noise. And along the same lines, there are musicians playing in the space near the bar. Now I do love to listen to a good musician, but with the sound issues in this place, the musicians added to the noise level. I personally prefer a quieter dining experience so that I can carry on a conversation with my companions without having to yell.
Okay, so how was the food? We tried a number of items and here is the skinny…
The waiter served us sweet hawaiian rolls with butter to start with which were delicious.
The Tomatoe Bisque was very delicious. But even better was the White Conch Chowder. It was like a party in my mouth; I don’t think that I have ever had soup that I enjoyed this much, and I don’t even like conch chowder!
The Simple Salad was a good sized plate and very refreshing with a light vinaigrette dressing.
The peel and eats were typical peel and eats which is a nice menu item for the area.
The Calamari was not impressive, but I can honestly say that it was the only thing that we did not enjoy.
The Ribeye was very tasty; it had a topical marinade, so if you do not like sauce on your meats you may not like it, but it really made the cut tender and I found it to be a good fit with the tropically themed menu.
The Coconut Macadamia Nut Catch (made with mutton snapper the night I was there) was the best fish that I ever ate at a restaurant, hands down; it was a nice sized fillet cooked perfectly. Scott suggested that I eat a bite of the tropical salsa with each bite of fish; the salsa was good but the fish really did not need it at all to improve upon the taste or add to it as it was fabulous all on its own.
The grilled seasonal veggies that were served with our entrees were tasty, although I think slightly over seasoned with oregano.
And to top it off, the Hula Girl Pie was awesome! OMG!! We were going to get the Key Lime Pie but Scott has not perfected the recipe yet so I am eagerly awaiting the day when we can try that out too, although the Hula Girl Pie was soooo yummy I may not ever even try the Key Lime when it is available.
Service…our waiter was great. He was very helpful and polite. He made suggestions and was able to answer questions regarding the menu. He was on top of things and so we were never without our glasses full. Can’t ask for much more than that. And Scott came over himself to talk to us and make his own suggestions to us.
After eating here I told my husband that this is my new favorite place near our house. If the conch chowder remains this good I will be back just for that and a salad alone which would make a perfect dinner. I just hope that the musician calls in sick next time.