I’ve been living and working in Provo on and off for the last dozen years or so, and though I’d never dare to claim I know everything about this area, I used to think I at least had a semi-decent handle on the culinary side of things, especially working for the entertainment section of the Daily Herald and contributing to our regular dining magazines, not to mention frequently perusing downtown Provo with my family just for fun.

Somehow, though, I missed one of the most important and delectable additions to Center Street in downtown Provo: the arrival of K’s Japanese Kitchen, which settled into the homestretch about six months ago.

It was through a message from a friend in another state that I first caught wind of the traditional Japanese eatery; a friend that reached out due to the enthusiastic ravings of her sister, who also does not live in the Provo area.

I was a little startled to be receiving dining suggestions from people so far away, and even more surprised to realize it was somewhere I hadn’t even heard of. So last week, I set out to correct that issue with a thoroughly delicious and delightful trip to K’s.

At the time my family was running ragged following a busy day and too much time in the sun, so sustenance was at the top of our priority list as we rolled down Center Street following our GPS and taste buds to K’s Kitchen.

We finally found it nestled next to Peace on Earth in the Liberty Center complex, and that location description is just about exactly how we felt walking in to the restaurant. With a simple interior that offered a minimal feel for decorating, it was like all the stress washing off and leaving a delightfully light feeling that reflected the space we were entering. Simple florals donned the light wood tables, with carefully spaced illustrations along the walls and a clear view into the food preparation area that offered a glimpse of just how fresh and delicious the meal would be.

We were greeted instantly and seated in the perfect corner spot to keep our tired little ones confined and busy, and it was just moments later that we all had menus and water, including two partially filled cups for our kiddos to minimize spillage while still making them feel important. They soon got their own sets of chopsticks they absolutely wouldn’t be using to eat, but I feel like it’s important to note that intuitive response and positive interaction with our kids made our whole dining experience, and they were pretty eager to order and dig in.

Reflecting the simple beauty of the interior is the menu itself at K’s Japanese Kitchen, with domburi making up the main menu through large bowls of rice with various toppings and ingredients. Seven key options can be combined with seven different side dishes to create combos that allow for a simple yet delicious dining experience.

When checking out new restaurants, it isn’t hard to feel overwhelmed by a plethora of options, so the uncomplicated nature of K’s menu was seriously delightful, and we quickly decided on four different dishes and sides to create combinations for our three adults and two children that everyone could share and enjoy.

Our sides arrived first, and astonishingly fast – just minutes after we finished ordering. Stuffed with beef, pork, chicken and Chinese leek, the Gyoza Dumplings were everything we hoped they would be, with a delightful flavor packed into a tender shell that even our kids couldn’t get enough of. We also sampled an order of Harumaki Spring Rolls, which offered a crisp exterior and delicious, fresh interior that was a perfect build-up to our meals.

Our third side choice was Karaage, fried chicken, and it certainly surpassed expectations. I’m not usually a fan of fried chicken, but one bite of perfectly seasoned breading and tender, fresh chicken changed my mind on that point, especially when dipped in the sauce provided. Surprisingly though, despite all those tasty options, the real winner was the Korroke, or croquette potato which we ordered based on recommendation. Basically a small potato cake with a crisply fried exterior, each taste of Korroke was packed with tender, flavorful potatoes, corn and other ingredients, creating a delicious experience we fought over the last bite of.

Just as we were working our way through the sides, the Domburi arrived, with the kids’ meal thoughtfully split into two smaller bowls with their own small salads and soups – a gesture absolutely appreciated as a parent of young children hoping to break out of the McDonald’s mold of eating. Though I’m all for a quick burger and fries, it’s always fun to experience new foods as a family, and I’ve never seen my kids so enthusiastically tackle a new cuisine as they did at K’s.

They weren’t the only ones to appreciate the small salad and soup – the size was just right to accent the meal without filling us up, and the dressing was delightfully light. As to the soup, miso has never been my favorite, especially considering the fermented soybean part. Yet somehow, K’s made the flavor delightful enough that my 4-year-old nearly finished the whole cup, including tofu, which she thought was chicken gummies. It certainly wasn’t torture to finish where she left off, in addition to my own meal!

The kids shared Teriyakidon, or Teriyaki Chicken, and we all pretty unanimously agreed it was the most delicious part of the evening. So good that none of it survived to take home. The rice was a perfect texture base that blended well with the sweet teriyaki sauce, and the chicken was fresh, tender and so tasty.

The Oyakodon, Chicken and Egg, also featured the tender chicken cuts, this time accompanied with egg on rice: also delicious and well-seasoned.

The Katsudon included perfectly crisped, breaded and fried Pork Cutlets that offered a rich flavor experience while the Gyudon came topped with the most delicious, thinly sliced beef and onions.

Though I generally am not a fan of onions in my dishes, I couldn’t get enough of it the way it was prepared at K’s, and I was grateful for a few leftovers to fight over with the rest of the family the next day. It’s safe to say it’s just as tasty when reheated.

More than just enjoying the food and experience myself, it was fun to see my family enjoying it so much as well, and I feel like a lot of that can be credited to the goal of the restaurant, named after Japanese native Kazuyo Stevenson, who just moved to Orem in March of last year. In the “About” section on the website, it shares that “K’s Kitchen is an at home environment, run by many members of her family, where not only is the food truly authentic, hand made by Kazuyo herself, but she has also placed an emphasis on ‘Omotenashi,’ which is the Japanese term used at the 2020 Japanese Olympic bid, to explain the Japanese version of ‘hospitality.’ ”

The traditional, authentic dishes were delicious and fresh, but the environment cultivated by those who run the eatery were just as delightful to experience. Though new to downtown Provo, it’s safe to say that my family certainly hopes K’s Japanese Kitchen will be around to enjoy for many years to come.

Kari Kenner manages and creates digital features and niche content for the Daily Herald.

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