Keyakiya Food Truck with Yasu and Yoshie Keyaki
Have you ever tried to save someone’s plate of food, only to take a few bites and then eat it all? I absolutely have to tell the truth: the first time I went to try Keyakiya they made me some of their eponymous signature chicken and I did my best to keep some for my husband. But before he saw what was in that take-out container, he was long gone. Keyakiya is a food truck created by Yoshie and Yasunao Keyaki, called Yasu. It’s a bright orange truck that parks just outside Kahului Port. They specialize in Japanese comfort food, the kind you can’t stop eating.
“We have Chicken Keyakiya, it’s our signature fried chicken,” says Yasu. “Another of our most popular dishes is wagyu beef curry. One of the Japanese comfort foods is curry. The Japanese love curries. Our salmon is good: It’s Ora King salmon from New Zealand. The katsu chop is good. We use rice bran oil. It is very neat and clean and does not contain any additional elements. I care about health. I do all I can eat everyday. It’s my aim. Before opening, I cooked at Nuka for four years. I ran their hot food kitchen. Here I do more of everything I ate growing up. “
When I first met Yoshie and Yasu from Keyakiya, it was their first day of launching on Bite Squad, and they were smacked. They had Japanese tourists lined up, people working with the Geste shrimp truck were getting food, and a number of regulars passed by as well. All of this happened at a non-emergency time for Keyakiya after 2 p.m.
“After I graduated from high school in Japan, I landed in LA,” Yasu explains. “I grew up in a small town in the city of Kanazawa. I always wanted to see what life was like in the big city and I’m a rock’n’roll so I decided to come to LA. I started as a dishwasher and then I became a cook, waiter, host, cashier, manager… I did everything you can imagine in a restaurant except being the owner. After several years, I moved to New York City to one of the most competitive food stages in the world.
Yasu worked at Sushi Gen in LA where he paid his membership fee. When he moved to New York, he met Yoshie. But Yasu realized that the rush of the restaurant world isn’t for everyone.
“Restaurant life isn’t always healthy,” Yasu says. “Especially when you are working in a fast paced, high volume restaurant. That’s a lot of sacrifice for your body and your mind. I was very tired in New York. I met Yoshie there and we decided to get married in Maui. She loves Hawai’i, and because I was in New York City and my family was in Japan, Maui is in the middle. I never visited Maui before the wedding. I had no idea how many islands there were, I had only heard of Waikiki. I visited Maui and then I thought, “Oh, this is the place where I have to live”. Then I joined Nuka.
Yet Yasu dreamed of creating his own style of cooking and working on his own recipes.
“Working in a big fancy place and a small fancy place, I realized that I wanted to go back to my original roots,” says Yasu. “Because I left my country when I was young, making these dishes now reminds me of how I grew up. There isn’t a lot of traditional Japanese cuisine found here. When you go to hotels and restaurants, you find a lot of fusion cuisine, from the Pacific Rim. I can’t find any kind of authentic Japanese food. I felt I had to do something with my experience.
Yasu and Yoshie opened the food truck in September 2018
“Now we wake up with the sun and sleep with the stars, working side by side, having a wonderful time together,” says Yasu. “We have the freedom and we are also very close to our customers. When cooking in a closed kitchen, there isn’t a lot of information about what’s going on in the dining room. We don’t have any fancy veneer or we don’t need knowledgeable waiters. What we have is a personal relationship with our customers at the food truck. “
Yasu makes his dashi from scratch every day and cooks his comfort food menu from the best ingredients he can get. Its menu includes donburi, tempura, udon, bento plates, furikake fries and specialties. The attention to detail on all of the bento items is fantastic; the greens and seaweed salads, salted cabbage salads are not mentioned on the menu but I enjoy them in conjunction with the whole experience. I also like their container sizes. They’re smaller than the usual 9-inch square takeout, but the space is better used and the amount of food you get is plentiful.
“When people come to my truck, I want them to feel like it’s not the first time,” Yasu explains. “I want them to feel connected from the service to the food. Good food makes people’s lives richer. I put 100 percent in every dish because every guest makes our life possible every day. Not knowledge or technique, but the heart. I don’t see myself as a chef but as an everyday cook. It’s a lot of work, but I’m very happy.
Keyakiya Food Truck
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Kahului Beach Road
Call Orders (808) 359-4919
Or order for delivery on bite Squad