On a recent trip to Banff, we decided to go to Chaya, a tried and true restaurant, for lunch. The last time I went to Chaya was almost two years ago. I had fond memories of delicious noodles and food but this time, our experience was just average.
Chaya is located right on the main Banff Avenue, beside the McDonald’s and Balkan the Greek. The restaurant is really small, has only about 5 tables and seats less than 20 people. The format of the restaurant is fast food style. You order at the counter, then find a table and they bring the food to you. The service is generally fast and the food comes out quickly, even if the restaurant is busy. The tough part is finding a table usually. (The restaurant does take out orders also.) The restaurant is also cash only.
The food prices are decent, by Banff standards, and most dishes are around the $10 mark. I especially like that this is a restaurant run by real Japanese people. This would be a good restaurant to visit if you’re in the mood for Japanese cuisine or noodles, don’t want to spend a fortune and want to eat quickly and be on your way.
I remember the quality of the food at Chaya being much better. Unfortunately, I’m afraid it’s gone downhill. From perusing the menu, I noticed they’ve expanded from udon to ramen now. I shared the tan tan ramen and ton katsu curry rice with a friend and both were underwhelming.
The ramen tasted like it came from a package. Having eaten fresh ramen before, I had a feeling that Chaya’s wasn’t handmade. There also wasn't a lot of ingredients in it such as peanuts or pork. It was mainly just the noodles and broth. On the other hand, the portions were decent and the broth was well done. It had flavor and wasn’t salty (which I like). It also wasn’t very spicy compared to other tan tan ramen I’ve had elsewhere (which I didn't like).
The curry sauce from the ton katsu curry rice tasted like it was made from a Glico curry package. It was extremely salty and didn’t have much curry flavor. The deep fried pork had a nice thin crispy batter but unfortunately, the pork itself was dry and tough.
I noted that some reviewers mentioned that there might have been a change in management at Chaya, which may help explain the change in the food quality. I probably will visit Chaya if I’m in Banff but I will be lowering my standards and expectations for this restaurant.
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