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Epicurious Disappointment

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It was late in the evening. The hub and I finally made the three block walk to Epicurious Garden. We were surprised to find no seating within except at Taste and the Tea place. The garden didn't have anything but benches and it was pretty dark and fairly chill. But we soldiered on, figuring if the food was good and also realizing this lack of seating was probably due to Berkeley's parking spot/restaurant-seating regulations.

I'd never made it to dinner at the regular Kirala because of the waits there, but was determined to get some sushi. My husband picked up a fresh futomaki (4 pieces for an astronomical sum but, oh well, we were willing to pay) I spied a roll with some spicy tuna, an avocado slice and two shrimp patterned on top. It was marked down from nearly $9 to 6-something. I figured it had sat around a few hours but would still be okay and since it was what I'd want anyway and I've had sushi from Drunken Fish that, even the next morning was fine, I bought it. We went up to the garden area.

My sushi must have been 24 hours old. The rice was dry and inedible, hard as cardboard pellets. Kirala To Go has lost a potential steady customer. It never occurred to me that they'd sell something like that. If I'd been warned I'd have gotten something fresh for a few bucks more. And I've had lots of pre-packaged sushi from Get-A on 41st near Piedmont when I've wanted lunch in a hurry. It's been $3-6 for very tasty fresh.

We also got soccas. My husband loved the pork topping on his but hated the crust stuff. I found the crust dry (maybe they should add a bit more of the olive oil they give you to drizzle ontop?) but liked the whole eggplant thing.

I had pictured the EG to be more like Philly's Reading Terminal Market of years ago, kinda funky with counter seating and really tasty (if much more expensive and upscale at EG) food and friendly servers. (We used to go to the stand of a guy name Vivek, who made great stir-fried veggies and brown rice and havarti and sprouts on whole grain.)

Does it do much business? I still am dying to try Taste--that night it was too late for waiting for dinner. We were starved.

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  1. I've commented in several posts that you should always get your sushi made to order at Kirala2 and stay away from the prepackaged stuff, particularly the stuff on sale.

    You are correct in assuming that the format of the complex is primarily take out with limited seating due to City of Berkeley restrictions and zoning ordinances.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Morton the Mousse

      I was so tired I was staggering. I didn't research first, we just went over, but that's no excuse for them selling such old food.

      1. re: lintygmom

        Agreed. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience. The bargain sushi at Kirala is a real turnoff and I think they should know better.

      2. re: Morton the Mousse

        The city's regulations are reasonable, they just require a restaurant to provide one off-street parking space per 300 square feet. There are no such parking requirements for a "carry out food store," which is defined as providing "no seating or other physical accommodations for on-premises dining."

        Developer-owner Soheyl Modarressi saw this as an opportunity to cram seven takeout places into the space of one normal-sized restaurant.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I wonder if, in the long run, it will be a success or a heart-breaker for those who took a stake in it.

          1. re: lintygmom

            It's hopping when the weather is nice but if we have a long cold rainy season ...

      3. I had always thought that one of the "problems" with the EG site was a City of Berkeley rule that one could not replace a "retail" establishment with a "restaurant" business. (This to ensure commercial "balance" so that all of Berkeley isn't transformed into an upscale gourmet ghetto.) Since the former occupier of the EG space was a TV store, only a "take out, retail" food business was allowed.

        Is Taste not considered a "restaurant"? And speaking of parking, where is the required parking for Cesar, and Chez Panisse? (Or maybe Taste and Cesar are "bars" and thus exempt?)

        Hard to see how EG will be a long-term success in its current incarnation. Its take-out experience for the price is just too shallow.

        3 Replies
        1. re: santoku45

          You can convert a retail space to a restaurant if, after a public hearing, the Zoning Adjustments Board grants you a use permit. There is a numerical limit of 27 food service establishments (restaurants and carry-out) in the North Shattuck district.

          http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/bmc/Berk...

          Part of Taste is a restaurant and at least theoretically has the required number of off-street parking spaces someplace. If I recall correctly, parts of it are permitted as a wine store and carry-out so no parking is required for that portion.

          Cesar also theoretically has off-street parking somewhere. Chez Panisse predates those regulations so is grandfathered in.

          1. re: santoku45

            "And speaking of parking, where is the required parking for Cesar, and Chez Panisse?"

            That would be the Andronico's parking lot.

            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              Andronico's . . . guess I'm not alone. (Pangs of guilt assuaged by pleasures of food . . ..)

          2. Well, there are two good things to be had at EG: the bentos at Kirala2 are fabulous when you are tired and hungry and want something quick and not too pricey--any of the grilled fish dishes are good. And the food at the Chinese teahouse in the back. Excellent dumplings and noodles. But not cheap.

            2 Replies
            1. re: baozhen

              I thought the teahouse was tea and dessert--would definitely have tried it, cheap or not.

              1. re: baozhen

                The honey chocolate from the price-y chocolate place is absolutely terrific. The other chocolates: eh, but the honey one is worth the price. Can I add that to a list of worthwhile things at EG?

              2. the discounted bento/sushi are all at least one day old, that's a confirm from the counter cashier; for a couple bucks more u can get it fresh prepared from the chef.

                2 Replies
                1. re: eurpsw

                  That's just wrong. They should at the very least have a sign stating that so that it's informed consent, but really, they should just toss 'em. I've bought day old baked goods before, but sushi would be out of the question.

                  1. re: eurpsw

                    Again it NEVER occurred to me that a high-end (in cost) sushi place like Kirala would do that. And >$6 for ONE roll of >day old sushi? (The high price was part of what lead me to believe it couldn't be that old. I just wanted to eat and go home to sleep.)

                    >Day old sushi is inedible--and it wasn't air-tight packaged.

                    That's just criminal.