Wild Thyme Restaurant Group, known for their widely popular concepts including Shorebird, Jay Bird’s Chicken, and Molé, to name a few, will introduce a new restaurant to their roster of acclaimed eateries. Set to open in September at Pacific City in Huntington Beach, Kai Lounge presents an immersive dining experience and nightlife venue inspired by modern Japanese culture and cuisine.
“As a resident of Huntington Beach myself, I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant in the community I call home,” says Heinrich Stasiuk, CEO & founder of Wild Thyme Restaurant Group. “We designed Kai Lounge to be a transcendent experience that allows you to step from the beach into the bustling nightlife of Tokyo.”
Culinary Director Jay Bogsinske, who oversees culinary operations and menu development for Wild Thyme’s concepts, and Executive Chef Tin Nguyen present a menu of modern Japanese cuisine. From stir-fried wok creations to the inimitable Omakase experience, the menu at Kai Lounge was designed to explore the different facets of Japanese dining.
Much like its menu, Kai’s interior takes cues from Japanese design, with contrasting tones of black and white, softened by sandy neutrals and balancing florals in cherry blossom pink. Kai Lounge welcomes guests into a progressive and immersive dining experience. Designed to celebrate the evolution and nuances of Japanese cuisine, the 6,500-square-foot restaurant features multiple lounge areas, dining rooms, and bars, each offering its own glimpse into the multi-faceted world of Japanese cuisine.
Guests can look forward to flavor-packed small plates like Blue Crab-Stuffed Jalapeños topped with mango purée; Hamachi Crudo topped with quick-seared tangerine slivers and jalapeños; and tender Pork Belly Bao Buns filled with pickled pepper slaw and hoisin sauce. Wok creations include stir-fry sensations like Shaking Beef with charred beef tenderloin, lemon watercress, and house ponzu; and Uni & Chuka Noodles tossed with uni butter, miso sauce, and shiro dashi. Creativity shines through bold signature entrees like Miso-Marinated Japanese Black Cod, Lemongrass Lamb Chops, and a Bone-In Filet Mignon served with black trumpet mushroom sauce.
Kai’s outdoor patio faces the Pacific City grounds, enticing passersby with lively music, chic lounge seating, and a circular indoor-outdoor bar that peers into the main dining room. Upon entering, guests are welcomed into a stylish waiting area, where an illuminated floral wall and contemporary furnishings present the perfect backdrop for guests to take photos. Kai’s main dining room offers seating for 150, including 14 at its Yakitori Bar, where guests can watch as Hokkaido scallops, Jidori chicken, and Kurobuta pork sizzle as they’re seared and skewered over traditional robata grills.
The back dining room plays with a juxtaposition of modern and traditional Japanese cuisine. Comfortable booth seating at the center of the room gives guests a view of both the restaurant’s open kitchen, where woks filled with contemporary twists on classic stir fries are tossed above an open flame, and its sushi bar, where chefs meticulously prepare nigiri, sashimi, and signature rolls. Finally, a secluded Whiskey Room, limited to just ten seats, offers guests an intimate dining space. Walls lined with premium bottles like Hibiki Master Select and Yamazaki become a backdrop for enthusiasts and aficionados alike. The Whiskey Room will double as an Omakase Speakeasy where Executive Chef Nguyen will offer a multi-sensory, 18-course Omakase experience.
Led by Director of Bar Operations, Topher Bray, the libations program at Kai Lounge offers a selection of handcrafted cocktails, along with a curated list of sakes, beer, and wine. Cocktails are reimagined with a modern Japanese twist in drinks like the Kai-pirhina with Cachaça and yuzu and cult classics like the Espresso Martini.