Bruce Chen, who has already carved out a dining following in Collin County with Chopsticks Asian Cafe in McKinney, extends his reach west to Frisco with the intimate yet elegant Aiya, located in a historical building at 9101 Preston Rd.
Aiya is a collaboration between Chen and executive chef "Li," both natives of Taiwan. Their goal is to reinvent Asian cuisine with familiar dishes done in a new way.
"This is not a regular Chinese restaurant," Chen says. "We'll do all kinds of Chinese food, including basics like Kung Pao and crab rangoon, but we're using good materials, and Li is a high-caliber chef."
Soups range from standbys such as hot and sour to unexpected selections like consomme with seared prawn and chicken.
They're also doing a wine list with 15 to 20 bottles; "most Asian restaurants don't do that," Chen says. Desserts are traditional with a twist, such as the crème brûlée made with matcha. The elegant atmosphere matches their aspirations.
Chen's story is inspirational. A former techie, he founded Chopsticks Asian Cafe in 2002 in the aftermath of the telecom crash. He carved out a niche by making everything from scratch. By 2014, he felt it was time to branch out and spent a year looking for the right spot in Frisco before finding the location at Preston Road and Main Street.
"This space is in the center of Frisco — it may be the oldest restaurant space in Frisco," he says. "It was established in 1960. It was a Dairy Queen, a burger place, II Brothers & Grill. Someone was using the space all the time."
They began construction, and then Chen suffered a terrible accident. He was driving home after a 14-hour shift when a drunk driver ran a red light and slammed into his car, causing it to flip three times and land on the roof. Chen was evacuated by helicopter to the Medical Center of Plano, where he remained in a medically induced coma for two weeks.
Chen has mounted a comeback because he is determined and because he has to. "Aiya already has the best Asian food in Frisco," he says.