Restaurateur opens Korean/Japanese café in East Hills

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The former Gaia Café in East Hills now is home to a Korean and Japanese eatery.

Owner Jason Kim soft-opened a restaurant called KCM in the long-vacant former Gaia café at 209 Diamond Ave. SE in Grand Rapids on Sept. 1. He said he still is preparing to do a full launch of the restaurant, expanding its hours to seven days a week, once he has hired and trained more staff members, including one or two more kitchen helpers.

The restaurant specializes in Korean and Japanese cuisine such as sando (Japanese cut white bread sandwiches or open-faced toast with meat, egg salad or other filling); curry and other rice bowls; tonkatsu (Japanese deep-fried tenderized pork loin, tenderloin and shoulder cutlets); chicken katsu; and kimbap (Korean-style fish and vegetable hand rolls wrapped with seaweed).

Kim is from Korea, and his wife is from Japan. Kim said he opened KCM because he and his wife noticed a lack of diversity in the local Asian food scene with most restaurants serving only sushi or Chinese buffet food.

“I think Grand Rapids people need to try out more authentic food,” he said. “I wanted to sell food like what we cook at home.” He noted KCM uses family recipes, especially from his mother-in-law.

Locally, Kim previously worked for Mikado Sushi and Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. In Korea, he worked at various restaurants, including a Korean barbecue place, Italian restaurant and a café.

“I like the restaurant business because I feel happy when customers try our food and they like it,” Kim said. “A restaurant job is really stressful and kind of hard, but I like the moments when people say, ‘I really like your food, and I’m going to come back.’ It’s motivation.”

Kim said KCM will eventually take online and phone orders but for now is concentrating on in-person dine-in and takeout sales until the operation has scaled.

Currently, KCM is open 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-7 p.m. Sunday.

More information, including menus, is available at kcmgr.com.

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