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Aug 31, 2011 06:01 PM

Kiraku - New Izakaya in Berkeley

Kiraku is about a month old in the old Royal Indian / Kabab & Karahi space by Norikonoko

husband and wife team with experience at Sumika (Los Altos), Kokko (San Mateo), and Jin Sho (Palo Alto)

4.5 stars on that other site with about 20 reviews

anyone tried it? thoughts?

236 Central Plz, Los Altos, CA 94022

Jin Sho
454 California Ave, Palo Alto, CA

509 2nd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

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    2566B Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

    3 Replies
    1. re: drewskiSF

      I love Japanese food and am excited to try it. I will report back on my experience. Curious to compare it Ippuku which in my opinion is way overrated.

      2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

      1. re: Ridge

        What a find!

        We went last night and really enjoyed it. The food was really delicious and the menu has lots of interesting sounding dishes. Our server could not have been more welcoming and gracious. We had a very difficult time deciding what to get because everything on the menu sounds so interesting.

        Here is what we ate:

        Maitaki mushroom tempura-this was one of the specials. I love maitaki mushrooms. This dish was excellent. The mushroom were crisp outside but moist and flavorful inside. The batter was crispy and not greasy.

        Grilled fava beans-another special. Large fava bean pods are grilled till the outside is charred. Served with salt for dipping. Simple and delicious. A must order.

        Fried ginko nuts- very interesting. I really liked this dish but probably not something I would order every time.

        Fried garlic- literally was fried garlic cloves. The cloves were surprisingly mild and soft and surrounded by a crisp tempura shell. Served with what I think was a zesty fruity miso-plum sauce. Very good.

        Buta-Kim- (Sautéed Pork and Kimchi w/ Poached Egg). Maybe the favorite of the evening. A perfectly balanced dish bursting with flavor. The spicy slightly acidic kimchi was a perfect match for the impeccably sautéed tender pork. Not at all heavy. A must order.

        Spicy Scallop- Tender scallops seasoned with spicy pepper. Simple, satisfying and delicious.

        I really loved this place and am anxious to go back. It’s so rare to find a good non-Sushi Japanese place in the states. It reminded my of restaurants I went to in Japan last summer. The food at Kiraku was creative without being gimmicky, tasty and was not overly greasy or overly saturated with MSG.

        2566B Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

        1. re: Ridge

          thanks for the report. will need to check it out soon!

    2. Thanks for the heads up. Sounds like good pedigree and appears interesting. Looking on the website, it sounds promising. But, also looks pricey; is that what they mean by "modern" izakaya? ;-)

      Any comment on what a night out might set me back?

      11 Replies
      1. re: jman1

        We went recently and loved it, but orders are small, so it's not cheap: $35-$40 a head before you are truly full and satisfied. We had short ribs, fried sweet corn fitters with matcha powder, yuzu chicken udon (lemony, good), shoyu ramen (a fine specimen), black cod in sake lees (my order and my favorite of the night), spicy fries, and a raw fish special that I unfortunately did not try but that my companions said was delicious. The grilled squid on someone else's table looked fantastic.

        Norikonoko next door was shuttered with a vague sign about opening again soon.

        1. re: sandunga_rbb

          Thanks. I assume that price range is without drinks/tax/tip. Correct? I never think about udon or ramen at an izakaya, but sounds like that may be a way to fill up a bit.

          Looks like the kind of place where a night that includes a bottle of sake might run about $80 a person? If so, that's on par with Sumika. Great on occasion, but also like to have izakaya options in the $30-40 range all included (OK, that might mean a pitcher of beer instead of sake).

          Sorry to hear about Norikonoko; hope it opens again. One of the better Berkeley Japanese options.

          236 Central Plz, Los Altos, CA 94022

          1. re: jman1

            $35-$40 was with everything included, but only one of us had a beer.... I did order the ramen midway through the meal after realizing I would still be hungry otherwise. I didn't check the sake prices.

            1. re: jman1

              The soju bangs in Oakland (Dae Po Jib, Dan Sung Sa, Kang Tong Degi) are sort of similar to izakayas and are cheap by comparison.

              Kang Tong Degi
              3702 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

              Dan Sung Sa
              2775 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

              Dae Po Jib
              3838 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Interesting. I don't think that I've been to any of those three. I've been to a couple of what were described as Korean bars in SF (soju, mostly flavored and various food items … at this point, I only remember the seafood pancake dish). Similar in terms of small plates? What kind of items are interesting to order; perhaps a pointer to a good primer? What's unique compared to what I might find at a restaurant?

              2. re: jman1

                The lady who runs Norikonoko is very ill and it won't reopen until she's better.

                1. re: rccola

                  We spent $80 (including tip) which included food and sake for two people. I had the sake sampler $15 and my partner had a glass of sake (served with ice, which I had never seen before. To me it seemed to water down the sake so next time we will ask them to leave the ice out). We could have eaten more but left feeling satiated.

                  1. re: Ridge

                    I'm beginning to think that my friends and I may be glutens! We end up eating/drinking a good bit more at these places. That said, B-Dama prices seem lower. Ju-ku in SF has some deals ($18 for 10 skewers / chef pick grilled or fried).

                    I've attached a photo of the bill for an evening at Sumika; 2 big eaters. Maybe we need more self control.

                  2. re: rccola

                    I'm so sorry to hear that and wish her a speedy recovery. She was always extremely sweet whenever I ate there.

            2. anyone been lately? going tonight, pre-David Sedaris. Do we need a res?

              2 Replies
              1. re: mariacarmen

                You probably saw this already, but a recent thread with reports:

                A special I had two weeks ago was their pea shoots with bottarga and bonito, a wonderful combination and probably the best thing I've eaten there.