Talk to Lon Symensma for even a minute or two and you'll realize the guy's got energy — and that he's a very busy chef and restaurant owner. The pace of conversation gets dialed up a notch when the founder of ChoLon Modern Asian, who has gone on to open Cho77 in 2015 and Concourse Restaurant Moderne just last week, discusses plans for the future. Even with the big opening in Stapleton, he was already crafting plans to open something fast-casual to complement his array of full-service eateries — something that would involve Asian street food à la Cho77, but that would focus on banh mi, dim sum and noodle soups. The result is Kaya Kitchen, which will open inside Avanti Food & Beverage in July.
Kaya Kitchen will replace Souk Shawarma in the food hall, which serves as an incubator for new ideas from up-and-coming chefs or established restaurateurs who want to test a new concept. As such, leases are short (the longest, as in Souk's case, has been two years). Some, like Farmer Girl and Bamboo Sushi, make it to full brick-and-mortar status (Farmer Girl Community Bistro opened in 2016 in Lyons, and Bamboo will soon move to bigger digs in LoHi), while others, like the inventive Mexican-Mediterranean hybrid Bixo, and noodle bar Mijo have yet to reappear elsewhere after their leases ran out.
According to Symensma's recently formed company, ChoLon Restaurant Concepts, Kaya Kitchen will specialize in modern interpretations of street-food classics from various Asian regions. Diners who frequent ChoLon will be familiar with the chef's kaya toast with coconut jam and egg cloud; a more casual version of the Singaporean dish will be part of the new menu at Avanti, along with Thai green papaya salad, Vietnamese beef pho and barbecue-pork banh mi and other quick bites.
And since Avanti serves as a springboard to bigger and better things, we had to ask Symensma if he's already scheming a full brick-and-mortar. His response? "We hope to open a Kaya Kitchen concept one day. I like the quick-service Asian street-food model."
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So that's a little something else to look forward to from one of Denver's leading culinarians.