Japanese lanterns, a special pub-style menu and cold pints combine at Chaya Downtown's outdoor beer garden. A summertime-only set up -- now through September 2 -- it's a casual spot that's an amiable contrast to the downtown eatery's elegant interior.
Open Monday through Friday, the sheltered patio buzzes most nights, though Thursday is busiest. All night there's a special menu of traditional Izakaya items at relatively reasonable prices. Feast on hot and cold appetizers (albacore tuna poki is a must), generous sized sushi rolls (tough to resist the crowd pleasing spicy tuna roll) and yakitori: made-to-order grilled skewers of lightly marinated chicken, bacon wrapped dates, shitake mushrooms and more. And there are some nifty specialty cocktails too.
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Served in a chilled coupe, the pink and pretty Seeing Double belies its swagger -- blood orange and lavender infused tequila mingled with a touch of lime and pomegranate juice. The mango Bellini is as refreshing as you'd expect. While the sake flight won't rock your world, the three pours of sake are served super chilled, a proper pairing to the skewers that come out fast and furious.
Not to be overlooked: Five kinds of beer are available by the bottle as well as pints and pitchers of draft Kirin. All contribute to the lively, communal atmosphere as laughter, music and conversation echo up and around the surrounding granite. Watch the cooks deftly manoeuver skewers on the small tabletop grill from Japan. Vegetarians can order off the restaurant's main menu for more selections; think summertime on a plate and try the light burrata and farm-fresh heirloom tomato salad. Fried oysters are just that, flash-fried and come with cilantro aioli; soy braised short ribs and coffee dashed BBQ pork are right-sized.
A pleasant setting, gastro-pub eats Japanese-style, pitchers of beer, library and skyscrapers in view--Chaya Downtown has fashioned a memorable summer tradition. Kick off from here for the next downtown art walk here -- which would be tomorrow, July 14. Happy hour drink and appetizer specials are available until close. For those that want to see chef de cuisine Kazuya Matsuoka stretch beyond the usual fare, he's preparing an omakase menu paired with sake on August 5. (Reservations required.)