This Japanese Boilermaker is Worth a Trip to Laguna

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Petite filet and The Cloud Strife. Photographs by Greg Nagel

There’s no better way to tell your bartender you’ve had a rough day then by ordering a boilermaker. The beer with a shot of booze “cocktail” may seem more of a prescription than  a sipper…that is, until now. At K’ya, a beachside bistro in Laguna, a mix of Japanese whisky and Japanese beer is a boilermaker that dares you to stop in and give it a try. Its named after a cheeky Final Fantasy video game character, The Cloud Strife.

Sometimes the best pairings are comprised of the simplest ingredients in their purest forms, and The Cloud Strife is as straightforward as it comes. Two glasses are delivered to your table, seemingly naked and shivering, perhaps bashful at exposing their naughty bits. The 12-ounce  Coedo Pilsner tries to cover up, applying layers of frost to the glass, fogging up the view of its golden body and bubbles rising madly to the top. The Suntory Toki Whisky sits docile and motionless, perhaps playing possum, asking you politely to drink the beer first and save the best for last.

Coachella Valley Brewing’s IPA and a stellar view.

Did I mention this place is on PCH in a historic hotel with a rooftop bar overlooking the ocean? The whole experience seems like it would be ridiculously expensive, but $13 for the drink seems well worth the trip considering the view. K’ya’s full tapas menu is also worthy of exploration, and the Wild Hawaiian Ahi Poke, whose rosy-red fish with super creamy avocado chunks and peppery arugula, join your beverages in a tawdry menage a trois of whisky and a fresh beer to chase. The trio is a perfect place to start.

What makes the Cloud Strife boilermaker special is more than just the country of origin, the beer and whisky compliment each other quite well. Suntory’s Toki is a bright and spring-like spirit, with a touch of sweet and spice that plays nicely with the vanilla-forward oak. Pink peppercorns, green apple, and a touch of herbaceousness finish out the easy-drinking booze. The beer is bright and crisp with pilsner malt and has just enough spicy noble hops to highlight Toki’s particulars.

Wild Hawaiian Poke and Spirited Away

Bartender Carlos offers another Japanese whisky cocktail, Spirited Away, featuring Suntory’s Iwai, Antica Sweet Vermouth, and bitters, garnished with a juicy blackberry for $13. Paired with the coconut breaded shrimp, the dish brings out some nice oaky notes of the spirit. If you want more of a turf instead of surf pairing, go for the grilled petite filet topped with bleu cheese and mashed potato for a $10 steal.

In terms of seating, you have a few options: the dining room and hotel lounge bar, complete with ceiling fans, Spanish tiled floors, and candles, or the rooftop lounge where you “simply go up the steps and follow the sound of music and the ocean,” says my server. I’m all for drinking and getting my vitamin D, and glad I found this hidden gem.

K’ya Bistro, La Casa Del Camino, 1287 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach // kyabistro.com

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