Call it Sakaya Kitchen, the sequel. Fans of the 3-year-old Midtown restaurant can now get their fix of yummy Asian-inspired dishes in a new downtown location. “I didn’t expect Sakaya to be as successful as it was,’’ says chef-owner Richard Hales.
What sets SK apart from other Asian joints? “We’re a little on the funky side,’’ says the Tampa native. “We use seasonal and organic ingredients, we play rock ’n’ roll music, we write our menu on the wall.” Expect the same, reliable, made-from-scratch Korean-style food from classically trained Hales (Azul, NYC’s Jean-Georges), including cracklin’ duck sandwich with black plum sauce, “Dirty South” pulled pork sandwich with kimchi slaw and melt-in-your-mouth Angus beef short rib taco.
More faves: Ginger garlic chicken atop greens with abundant strips of moist, fragrant white meat that’s great for sharing. The spicy brussels sprouts are getting people to eat their veggies again. Hales uses the expanded downtown space as his workroom/lab. All sauces, marinades, pickling, curing and roasting goes on there. Something new here: milkshakes in flavors like chocolate with a hint of bacon and Key lime with blueberry. Other smoothies are geared for the morning crowd, with locally roasted Panther Coffee.
Hales plans breakfast service soon with grab-and-go items like seasonal fruit cups and muffins baked by his wife, Jenny. Sakaya downtown has a bigger oven, so Jenny can bake her famously monstrous cookies (sugar-crusted red velvet, oh my). She has no background in cooking, just being a mom. No wonder they taste so good.