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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)


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  1. 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?

    Kirala Restaurant
    2100 Ward St, Berkeley, CA 94705

    Rikyu Japanese Restaurant
    5335 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

    1. 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

      1. 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

        8 Replies
        1. re: eeblet

          Oh em gee. Geta looks fabulous--I'm excited already by looking at the (cheap) donburi section on their menu! Quick question, would you recommend the pork or chicken katsu, based on your experiences?

          And no, no ambience needed at all ;P

          1. re: Pammeh

            The katsu curry or ginger pork are my faves. Hubby luvs their sub $5 oyako don.

            1. re: lexdevil

              Oooo, sounds great! And at those prices, I can get BOTH katsu and oyakodon! :) When presented with both on a menu, I often agonize over which one to try.

              1. re: Pammeh

                Take the comment on ambiance seriously. Geta is TINY. There's always a wait for a table, and once you get one, the place is cramped w/ folks waiting on line. For us, Geta is all about take away.

                1. re: lexdevil

                  I always like to stay, actually - if you show up at 2pm for lunch or 5:30pm for dinner, it will be pretty empty, and as long as you don't sit at the table in front of the bathroom, it's fine. Just don't expect anything other than a busy take-out place happening all around you. :)

                  1. re: eeblet

                    Geta sounds pretty good! I can't believe how many times I've walked past this place and headed straight on to Gregoire. Gotta try Geta next, the prices do look attractive, will report back~

                    1. re: liujenny

                      Just remember, Geta and Gregoire couldn't be more different. And not just because the former is Japanese and the latter French. The best word to describe the food at Geta is homey. There's nothing remotely upscale about it. And it will cost you 1/3 to 1/2 as much as Gregoire.

                      1. re: lexdevil

                        Exactly - it's more like the Piedmont Diner... but Japanese.

        2. 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.

          Mitama Restaurant
          3201 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

          1. O Chame has great udon and soba. Slightly upscale.

            O Chame
            1830 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

            1 Reply
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I love O Chame! :) But unfortunately, it's a bit to pricy to add to my list of regular comfort food places. Yeah, I'm reaaally craving fried meat and eggs over rice first thing in the morning now, haha...

            2. "Japanese comfort food: tonkatsu, chicken katsu, oyakodon, unagi over rice, omurice, udon.."

              Would love to know where to get this in mid Peninsula other than cash only Gombei.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ceekskat

                A few to check out ... there might be menus on some ... and links to reports

              2. 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

                1. Here's a few more ideas.

                  You will need to look at the menus or read the links to see if they are good or have what you want. I'm not that familiar with Japanese food. Many places serve both sushi and other Japanese food.

                  1. 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).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: K K


                      Mikaku Restaurant
                      323 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108

                      Kappo Nami Nami
                      240 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                      Minako Organic Japanese Restaurant
                      2154 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      236 Central Plz, Los Altos, CA 94022

                      Jin Sho
                      454 California Ave, Palo Alto, CA