KuYa goes beachside

Lying on the beach is hungry business. Kuya, Malta’s favourite Asian food pub, has the solution for you, opening a beachside restaurant on Qui-si-sana Seafront later this month. Amy Micallef Decesare talks to the owners. 

Many people know KuYa as the Asian street food van, having grabbed a bite to eat at many events around the island. They are adding a beachside restaurant to their repertoire. Amy talks to the Ferris brothers about how this all started.

With spring in full swing, repeatedly walking up and down Ross Street in St Julian’s is not what I signed up for one Tuesday evening. I was convinced the address of KuYa Asian Pub listed on Trip Advisor was incorrect. 

Ready to call it quits, I walked the same road for the 20th time, except this time I was greeted by a beaming Luke Ferris, part 1 of 2. With an entrance no greater than the width of a single door, it is truly reminiscent of the entrance to Narnia. That is, if Narnia served delicious ramen. I couldn’t help but be blown away by the atmosphere and its laid back, underground vibe.

I sat down and was greeted with a warm handshake and a shot of sake. Urging me to try it was Gabriel Ferris, part 2 of 2.

Eager to delve into the minds of the Ferris brothers, I sat back with a sake in hand and let them tell me their story.

In the way most siblings do, they disagreed upon most points… “I think we opened in 2013.”

“No, what are you saying? It was 2012!”

In spite of this, one thing they were in complete agreement on was their concept and ultimate passion for their food and establishment.

With their father’s dream always being for his sons to open up a restaurant, Gabriel and Luke finally jumped on the bandwagon, following his passing. Both brothers had spent a significant amount of time travelling the world, soaking up different cultures and embracing different kinds of foods. Gabriel worked as a professional chef in countless locations and restaurants all over the world, Malta included, but he was getting restless.

The idea behind KuYa came to fruition one fine evening, following a couple of drinks and a lot of laughs. Initially, the brothers thought it would be a great idea to travel around Malta, cooking Gabriel’s specialty, Asian food (with his signature twist), out of a bus. Once the alcohol haze had cleared however, they decided that it wasn’t the most feasible, or practical of ideas.

Three short months after that conversation, the Ferris brothers opened the well-loved KuYa van, together with Gabriel’s wife Diane. Their trial run was the St. Julian’s festa in 2013 (or 2012, no-one can be certain) and to their amazement, not one single noodle or strip of crispy beef remained after just two hours. The food was wholesome, indulgent and inexplicably delicious. It was also fast and easy; two factors most of us fast-paced, on-the-go, impatient folk value so highly. Their main inspiration was Asian cuisine, with Gabriel describing the food as 90% Japanese-inspired and 10% of his personal twist. That 10% is absolutely crucial, as it is what gives KuYa its signature taste and charm.

A full year of back-breaking work later and the brothers were yearning for more. They began looking for spots that fit the concept of KuYa perfectly. After weeks of searching, they finally found KuYa’s home. Ross Street, St. Julians, a stone’s throw from Portomaso. Almost impossible to find if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, the restaurant is a hidden gem. Its evasiveness is part of its charm, walking down the stairs into the restaurant, I guarantee it will become your new favourite hangout. 

With incredible support and backing, Gabriel and Luke successfully opened KuYa in St. Julian’s just three weeks later and not a single detail was missed, whilst a family friend, Jean Paul Cachia, took over the running of the van.

Without any grand openings, the brothers were sure that KuYa’s food would speak for itself and boy were they right. The restaurant is full to the brim on almost any given night and attracts people from all walks of life, including visitors from the other side of the world, surgeons, university students, their grandparents; all eager to ‘eat like an Asian’.

It’s a challenge to pinpoint exactly what patrons love most about KuYa, so we took it upon ourselves to ask around, right there and then.

The general consensus was that the combination of KuYa’s overall atmosphere and food is simply unparalleled. And just in case you’re wondering if this statement only holds water for Maltese patrons, you might be surprised to find that even born-and-bred Japanese customers can’t stay away. 

With their ever-changing eclectic menu, featuring all-time favourites such as Bang Bang chicken and yellow curry, you really can’t go wrong. Scrawled on a chalkboard in colourful chalk, there’s something for everyone, even the pickiest of eaters.

Walking out a few hours later, I couldn’t help but think there truly is something magical about the gem that is KuYa. Being the first and only establishment of its kind on the island, the Ferris brothers have worked out the ultimate formula and show no signs of stopping. With friendly, down to earth staff, a keen eye for detail and incredibly strong work ethic, the Ferris brothers and KuYa itself is destined for greatness. With a couple of projects in the pipeline, all I can tell you is it’s time to get excited about the opening of a second KuYa establishment. Finger’s crossed it will be in a town near you.

KuYa Asian Pub

Ross Street,

St. Julian’s

Tel: 2713 6517

Facebook: KuYa-Asian-Pub