L.A.’s Oldest Restaurant Turns 352 This Year

Talking to Chaya owner Yuta Tsunoda on Chaya Brasserie’s 30th year in L.A.

Chaya, the restaurant group known for ushering in Asian fusion with classic dishes like tuna tartare, opened its first location near Beverly Hills in 1984. Chaya Brasserie has always been a hot spot for the fashion-forward crowd around Robertson, but its real lineage goes back further than three decades.

Chaya’s original location opened in 1661 in what is now Hayama, Japan. It began humbly, as a tea house. By 1894, as Hayama became a destination, Hikage Chaya transformed into a luxury inn for travelers and visitors to the area. It wasn’t until 1978 that Chaya opened a full restaurant operation, which continues to thrive in Japan today.

This year, Chaya Brasserie celebrates its 30th Anniversary. To honor the occasion, Chaya will host Kuniaki Kozuka—the Michelin-starred chef stationed at Chaya’s original location in Japan—for a special collaboration dinner. On October 18 and 19, taste both the food of chef Kozuka and L.A.’s chef Shigefumi Tachibe at Chaya on Alden. (Details on how to reserve a seat at this exclusive dinner are forthcoming.)

To find out what keeps Chaya relevant in today’s ever-changing dining scene, we talked to owner Yuta Tsunoda about Chaya’s mission, and how it’s developed over the years.

You’ve seen the company grow in Japan and in L.A. How has Chaya evolved over the years?
Staying true to our original concepts and roots of Franco-Japonaise cuisine, we strive to not only keep up with, but be one step ahead the trends and all aspects of the restaurant industry. Overall, our food has evolved with the farm-to-table concept, though Chaya in Japan has always followed many of these now popular trends in dining. We aim to use organic, local, and sustainable ingredients as much as possible. I like that Shigefumi Tachibe (Corporate Executive Chef) uses only the  simplest cooking methods. Since nothing he creates is too elaborate, his food is a mastery of balance. He constantly creates new and innovative dishes without overshadowing our signature, most popular items that have come to define CHAYA.

How has Chaya stayed relevant in the dining scene over the years?
I always remember this: Never rest on your laurels!  We’re constantly tweaking, researching, and listening to our loyal customers— they’re the ones who have kept us around for the past 30 years. Our goal is to keep challenging ourselves, both in the kitchen and the dining room, and to continually get better each year.

Will Chaya open any new locations in the next couple of years?
The idea is always on our minds. Actually, we would like to expand beyond the recognized CHAYA restaurants and perhaps open in new cities and areas with an entirely different concept. This would probably be something more intimate and smaller than the current CHAYA concept.

What do you hope guests might experience from Chaya’s brand of hospitality?
We want to provide every customer with the best. Our heritage speaks to our commitment to this—our goal is to make sure everyone has a great time, every time. It’s not all business. When you dine at Chaya, we want you to feel like you are part of the Chaya history and family.

What is the future of Chaya?
Hopefully the future is bright! We will always be working to improve our current restaurants and listening to the demands of our guests. We are also always aiming to improve our service by allowing our patrons to experience the true heart within Japanese hospitality.

http://cdn2.lamag.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/2013/09/arrow17.png Chaya Brasserie, 8741 Alden Dr. Los Angeles, 310-859-8833.