Kaia Wine Bar: A Home Away From Home

A Clean Plates review
December 5, 2013 Updated: January 21, 2014

With a multitude of restaurants at our fingertips, New Yorkers are often asked, “What type of food are you in the mood for?” 

While South African may not be a common response, Kaia Wine Bar might just ingrain this cuisine into your arsenal of go-tos. This darling Upper East Side restaurant offers seasonal South African-inspired small plates in a rustic, 50-seat setting.

Kaia, which means “home” in Zulu, is a candlelit neighborhood gem that’s perfect for a romantic date night or fun evening out with friends. Focused solely on authentic South African flavors, chef Ivan Giani’s eclectic menu features biodynamic and grass-fed meats, organic produce, local cheeses and a sustainable fish program. Beverages include South African and New World wines, along with a selection of American craft beers.

A starter of wild boar sliders topped with smoked tart cherry compote set the tone for an intensely flavorful meal. Along a narrow plate, creamy scoops of ostrich tartare alternated with watermelon radish slices and toast rounds over white chocolate mustard; the myriad of tastes and textures really impressed us when assembled together. 

Chilled tilefish ceviche mingled with diced kiwi fruit, oranges, red peppers and lime juice for a citrusy and refreshing warm weather dish, best enjoyed when spooned onto the accompanying crisped bread for added texture. 

Other meal highlights include the vibrant “Jacob’s Nootjes” scallops atop sweet corn puree peppered with mango relish, and the savory “Spear and Shield” dish: bacon-wrapped asparagus resting on portobello mushrooms smothered in cheddar cheese and a rich green peppercorn sauce.

Will I be craving South African cuisine on a regular basis now? Absolutely. The delicious, high quality cuisine and cozy, unpretentious atmosphere make me want to call Kaia my new home away from home on the UES.

Reviewed by:
Best Practices/Nutrition: Ashley Spivak 
Food Critic: Megan Murphy

Kaia Wine Bar
South African, Wine Bar
1614 3rd Ave. (90th & 91st St.) 
212 722-0490 

Mon-Thu: 5 p.m.-12 a.m.
Fri-Sat: 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m.
Sun: 5 p.m.-11 p.m.

Clean Plates reviews are the only restaurant reviews that combine the expertise of a nutritional consultant and a food writer/critic. In addition to each restaurant being visited, Clean Plates employs a rigorous multi-step assessment process including thorough research into ingredient sourcing; quality of cooking oils; preparation techniques; eco-friendly, sustainable practices; and ability to accommodate specific dietary needs.
Visit www.cleanplates.com to get healthy, clean eating tips and recipes—plus, dish with the chefs and pioneers leading the sustainable charge to a table near you.