I love Japanese but not sushi...
...which is not as contradictory as it may sound. I'm not a fan of fish, and the combination of that with rice/nori/raw veggies rather bores me, but I love love LOVE Japanese comfort food: tonkatsu, chicken katsu, oyakodon, unagi over rice, omurice, udon...you get the picture :)
I've been craving these for a while, but every Japanese review I look up ends up discussing the sushi! Anyone have any recommendations for getting a good bowl of meat over rice (or udon--not ramen, but udon) in the EAST bay? (I know of some places in SF, but I'd love to get a restaurant or two closer to home)
I think Rikyu on College also does unajyu, tempura, teriyaki and such, but they do also have sushi. Although I've never tried these items (I had sushi), I heard from the owner's wife that the chef was trained traditionally and was very skilled in making cooked Japanese items.
Doesn't Kirala also offer a lot of robata items as well?
2100 Ward St, Berkeley, CA 94705
Rikyu Japanese Restaurant
5335 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618
Norikonoko serves terrific authentic homestyle food. The place is run by an old couple. I recommend getting the daily specials. It's a bit on the pricey side but well worth it. Near Berkeley campus on Telegraph between Blake St. and Parker St. If you've been to Kui Shin Bo in SF Japantown, it's similar but with no sushi and instead, they do robata.
Norikonoko Japanese Rstrnt
2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
Very cheap and tasty, and actually run by Japanese people (there are lots of Korean-run Japanese places nearby): Geta. They are a sushi joint, but the katsu is tasty, and the udon is simple but delicious. And so so cheap! Don't expect much ambience, though.
Geta Japanese Restaurant
165 41st St, Oakland, CA 94611
Norikonoko's great. Charming little place.
Kirala does good robata and their butterfish is tops, but the wait is ridiculous. We were going to go there last night but at 8:45 there was still a long line. We went to Kansai instead (Korean-run Japanese).
Mitama's cooked food is good.
3201 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
It's also worth noting that Uzen has some excellent cooked food. Folks may overlook it, because Uzen has the best sushi in Oakland, but it really is good. They do a very nice oyako don at lunch. Their tonkatsu (on the dinner menu) is my local fave. Their udon, available at lunch and dinner, is the best in the area. The texture of the noodles is excellent--not overcooked like some. Prices are higher than Geta, but the food is nicer. Still reasonable.
Uzen Japanese Cuisine
5415 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618
For reference, if you are ever in the South Bay or willing to leave the East Bay:
Definitive Oyakodon is at Sumika Los Altos. Lunch set will run $10 (yes pricey for oyakodon) but comes with a salad and at times aka miso soup. Smokey flavors chicken (using Petaluma Farms organic), the egg is by default cooked but at a runny consistency. Perfect short grain Japanese rice.
Try the Nagoya Zen lunch set at Kappo Nami Nami in Mountain View. It's a Kyoto style slant on tonkatsu. Juicy pork, miso marinated inside (arguably saikyozuke), toasty and crispy outside. Artfully arranged teishoku with Kyoto style tsukemono side dish.
About a year+ ago, there was a report that Mikaku downtown (near SF Chinatown's entry gate) had freshly in house made soba (done w/o a proper soba mill) as a special for dinner (the chef reportedly an enthusiast that experimented), served with soba-yu, the liquid left over from the process. Never tried it but sounds like this would be it.
A yelp review mentioned Minako in the Mission, call ahead and request teiuchi udon (hand made fresh udon). Have not tried it but since the demise of Tombo in San Mateo that also made hand made fresh Kansai udon, nothing has been the same since.
Unaju, got me there. An old post looking for the best unagi over rice mentioned Kappa in SF but seriously a dinner at Kappa will run you $70 to $100++ and even if they serve an appetizer of unagi it won't be enough. Bottom line is that every sushi restaurant uses frozen pre-BBQ'd filets of unagi kabayaki, or if not frozen, pre-cooked anyway. Jin Sho in Palo Alto (the chefs are former Nobu NY alum) sources a fresh live anago (sea eel), de-bone, filet, and steam in house (from scratch). I suppose you can custom order an anago-don for lunch or dinner, and that would be your best rendition of "from scratch". Don't miss requesting anago liver clear soup, where the liver is just briefly blanched in dashi. Tastes really really good. Not on the menu, you would have to ask the chef owner for it specifically. Call before even going there that they have fresh anago available (even though it is a standard menu item, typically for sushi).