Seasoned restaurateurs Kayo Asazu and Motoyasu “Moto” Utsunomiya have a friendship that’s endured for 20 years. Originally from Japan, the two met in Austin while both were getting their footing in the city’s food scene, and they would meet over coffee and toy with the idea of opening their own coffee shop. Over time, Utsunomiya and Paul Qui went on to build the East Side King empire, and Asazu and her husband Take opened Komé and Daruma Ramen. The idea of owning a cafe was never taken seriously until someone showed her a space in the Canopy building on Springdale Road in April 2013.
Coffee & Eats
Kayo Asazu and Moto Utsunomiya
“Hey, do you remember we kind of joked around like one day we should open a coffee shop? Is it a joke or what?”Kayo Asazu, co-owner of Sa-Tén
“I didn’t want to think about any other business,” says Asazu. She was exhausted; she had just opened Daruma Ramen a week before, but after seeing the space, the wheels began to turn. “I called Moto… and I was like, ‘Hey, do you remember we kind of joked around like one day we should open a coffee shop? Is it a joke or what?’” she recalls, laughing. She showed him the space and he immediately wanted in. The duo opened Sa-Tén in September.
Sa-Tén has a classy and relaxed vibe that’s hip but approachable. The design melds perfectly with the artists’ community that surrounds the shop in the Canopy complex. Jazz music hums over the speakers – a touch from Utsunomiya’s jazz background.
Jazz music hums over the speakers – a touch from Utsunomiya’s jazz background.
“I came [to Austin] to experience the blues scene here,” he says. While spending time playing in a band, he was also improving his culinary skills. After spending 15 years making sushi, he opened East Side King with Paul Qui, his first business endeavor. Utsunomiya’s kitchen experience shines when you try any of Sa-Tén’s mouthwatering delights. He methodically created a menu that was completely different from East Side King. The result is a Japanese-American fusion, featuring sriracha mayo smoked salmon toast with fresh bread imported from Chicago’s Yamosho Inc. and chicken katsu with curry as main dishes, and cheesy anchovy bread and macaroni Fuji salad as sides.
Manager Janine Hurd was given full reign of the coffee portion of the shop, and was tasted to craft Sa-Tén’s drink menu. Each drink evolved from the experiments she’d concoct during her days of working in other coffee shops — favorites she’d make for herself on the side. The syrups are made in-house for the signature drinks, such as the Ohayo (“good morning” in Japanese; a cappuccino with brown sugar) and the Saifa (“crush and destroy” in Japanese; a sinful concoction of condensed milk, multiple syrups, drip coffee, espresso and cold brew).
“We’ve had a great response [to the specialty drinks], and we sell a ton of them, which means a lot to me,” says Hurd.
Writing: Molly McManus
Photography: Chris Perez
916 Springdale Road, Bldg. 3, Ste. 101
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