Joya’s Cafe in Worthington serves Asian-inspired American food

G.A. Benton Eating at the hot new local restaurant — Joya’s — has become nearly mandatory for anyone in Greater Columbus who writes about food or posts online photos of it. Rarely has belonging to such a group been so rewarding. Put differently, believe the hype: Joya’s cooks some exciting […]

G.A. Benton

Eating at the hot new local restaurant — Joya’s — has become nearly mandatory for anyone in Greater Columbus who writes about food or posts online photos of it. Rarely has belonging to such a group been so rewarding. Put differently, believe the hype: Joya’s cooks some exciting stuff.

Continuously busy since opening in August, Joya’s generated early buzz because it’s the first eatery launched by local celebrity chef Avishar Barua, whose talent previously took him to top-shelf restaurants like Veritas Tavern and Service Bar as well as the “Top Chef” TV show.

Creating Joya’s, named for his mentoring mother, took Barua to the address of late lamented Sassafras Bakery in Worthington. That quaint space now resembles a hip little cafe with a couple tables and limited counter seating. While fairly spare, the room is enlivened by plants, trendy cookbooks, branded merchandise, peach-tinted walls and personable servers. A few make-do outdoor tables await the inevitable customer spillover.

Joya's Signature Recipe hot milk chai, made from lightly sweetened Ceylon tea and evaporated milk.

Any sense of understatement evoked by such trappings evaporates when tasting Joya’s intense fare. Relatedly, diners familiar with Barua’s lengthy and funny Instagram posts — jokes and puns discharge from his fingertips like fireworks exploding in early July — will notice that “more is more” describes Barua’s way with words and his approach to the cooking at Joya’s.

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Elaborate sandwiches requiring numerous components and multi-stage, scratch-cooking techniques anchor a small menu that riffs on fast-food favorites, street food and popular, chile-spiked dishes from throughout Asia. The latter influences are prevalent, and several items are spicy but nuanced umami-bombs with links to the cuisines of China and India.

The Toast-in-a-Box at Joya's Cafe combines a Bengali omelet, pork roll, and pepperjack cheese with Korean mayo, ketchup, mustard and is wrapped in buttered and toasted bread.

Take the outstanding kati roll ($15) — just don’t think about taking mine. Inspired by an Indian street-food classic, it’s like a curry-scented shawarma on steroids. The stars — delectable, juicy, ground-lamb kebabs — are bound in an enormous, pleasantly nubby and elastic, griddle-fried flatbread. Tangy, rich, spicy, tart and sweet accents arrive via egg, “maple chaat yogurt,” wonderful house apple chutney, pickled onions and “cilantro crema.”

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