Written by The Business Journal Staff
KoJa stands for Korean-Japanese, and the restaurant offers a fusion of flavors from both cultures. Its most popular dish is a gourmet sandwich, called KoJa, which is similar to a burger, but includes a choice of meat served between fried garlic rice buns.
The restaurant also serves rice bowls with various choices of meat and veggies, as well as tacos and salads.
Side dishes include Buffalo wings and KoJa Kitchen’s famous Kamikaze fries — crisscut waffle fries, minced Korean barbecue beef, kimchi, Japanese mayonnaise, red sauce and green onions.
KoJa Kitchen began serving its Korean-Japanese grub from a food truck in the San Francisco Bay area in 2011. Its popularity made it a feature on two Food Network shows: Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and Eat Street.
KoJa Kitchen opened its first brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2014 and now boasts five locations in the Bay Area.
“The original lunch truck grew into a location in Berkeley and multiple Bay Area locations came from that,” Tom Lai, co-owner of the Fresno franchise, said. “KoJa is a very trendy food now, and we went this far out because we think Fresno is ready. It’s a new market but we expect it to be successful. All our reviews are 5-star so far.”
Lai and partners Mike Nguyen and Van Ngo are not the founders of KoJa Kitchen, but wanted to open a franchise because Korean-Japanese infused cuisine intrigued them.
“KoJa has been popular the last two years and we were looking for a good restaurant to open, and I fell in love with KoJa right away,” Lai said. “It is a great marriage of the two foods, with Japanese cuisine being sweeter and the Korean kimchi adding to that for a good balance of flavors.”
The Fresno location is the first KoJa Kitchen outside of the Bay Area, but there are plans to open locations in Rocklin and Los Angeles/Irvine this year.
Lai said the spot was selected because it’s in a newer area with plenty of traffic thanks to anchor tenant GB3.
Lai also said the food available at KoJa caters to the area’s demographic.
Lai relocated to Fresno from the Bay Area to help run the franchise and said the Central Valley city is a good place to do business.
“I enjoy the people here, and Fresno is bigger than I expected,” Lai said. “In terms of business itself, Fresno has really good opportunity.”