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Need East Bay Izakaya recommendation?

Will be in the Berkeley/Oakland area for 2 nights and want to meet a friend for an Izakaya experience.

So far Ippuku seems to be all that I could find. However, could not find a menu or any pix?

Would love something like Kingyo in Vancouver BC.

Thanks Chowhounds --- dff

Izakaya Restaurant
1335 N 1st St, San Jose, CA 95112

2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

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  1. there is also Kiraku in Berkeley on Telegraph and B-Dama in Oakland on Piedmont Ave. Kiraku doesn't have skwers / yakitori, if that's your thing.


    4301 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

    2566B Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

    2 Replies
      1. re: chefj

        Meant this to follow my post about Ippuku

        2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

    1. Ippuku is the greatest. There are pictures of the space on http://www.ippukuberkeley.com and menu photos on Yelp.

      2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

      3 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Can one get Awamori there? Been dying to try that. None of the Japanese markets seem to stock it.

        1. re: arktos

          I do remember seeing awamori on the menu but did not order it. It was a while ago when I went.

          I think ippuku is in a class by itself if someone is looking for an East Bay izakaya.

          1. re: arktos

            Kiraku also has Awamori on their menu. It's in the ShoChu section of their drinks menu.

            1. re: Ashley12

              Don't know much about Izakaya, but can recommend B-Dama for good food, charming & casual space, and and an all-round good time.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I think Ippuku is overrated but many people love it.

                  I love Kiraku. We have been going on a regular basis since they opened and every time we have gone it’s been spectacular. We went there the weekend before last. It was such an amazing meal. Everything was a revelation, from the simple but delicious Kiraku salad to the impeccable fresh sashimi to the creative tapas plates. I was going to post a review here but time got away from me and it seems kind of dead around here these days anyways. Another thing about Kiraku is that the service is incredibly warm and welcoming. I was glad to see the restaurant was bustling. It deserves to be.

                  1. re: Ridge

                    + 1 for Kiraku as well. they are my favorite, the service is Very warm, the specials are great, we were there this past Saturday, and were given a couple of small comp dishes, lotus root chips and small taro balls, the sauce on that was amazing. Spicey stewed beef tongue was very tender, a little spicey for me, but with a little rice, it was perfect. quality of the rice was very good. there was also home made tofu and amberjack sashimi.

                    They always recognize us, and I always see alot of Japanese there.

                    Ippuku just seems too hip and precious to me.

                    1. re: Ridge

                      I also liked their potato/taro balls, especially because of the sauce. I hadn't heard anything about skewers there, so I was pleased to eat a delicious miso-glazed alligator skewer there last week. Their wasabi and brie (yes, the cheese) special proved to be weird but not especially good.

                      Note that Kiraku has a standard menu and a specials menu with more experimental dishes. If you balance those two out, you can have a very nice meal.

                      1. re: hyperbowler

                        I saw the alligator, but had too many others that I wanted to try, so will have to wait until next time. Yeah, we usually get a few things from the regular menu and a few from the special as well, it does make for a very nice meal.

                      2. re: Ridge

                        I finally tried Kiraku the other week, and I still don't know quite what to make of it. We didn't love it on first sight as we did Ippuku but it's unusual enough that it bears closer inspection. We were told that the chef has trained to cook European style therefore dishes like broccoli w anchovy and garlic, pasta, or meats may be in that style, not Japanese! It's an unusual menu for sure. We ordered takowasabi, spicy jellyfish, tsukemono, corn tempura, menma, ceviche, grilled squid. Our favorite dish was the corn tempura (fresh/frozen corn kernels in batter accented with green tea salt). There was something about the texture of much of what we ordered: soft or gelatinous that created a sameness about our meal that was a bit disappointing. I expected the grilled squid or jellyfish to have some crispness but they didn't. Overall, the flavors were a bit muddled for me. Maybe I need to try different items. It felt a lot more homestyle than Ippuku, and the menus are so different that I'm not sure it's even fair to compare the two. It does feel as if one has stumbled into a local Japanese hangout (even the Anglos were speaking Japanese). Our service was friendly and sweet.

                        1. re: rubadubgdub

                          i'm going tonight, and never having been to an Izakaya, don't have any expectations, but thanks for that description of the squid/jellyfish - i too would expect/want some crispness.

                          the menu looks really good and interesting, tho. the buta kim (Sauted Pork and Kimchi w/ Poached Egg) is really calling my name.

                          can anyone tell me if it's likely to be a longer, drawn out meal? we have tix at Zellerbach at 8 and can't get to the resto before 6:00.

                          1. re: mariacarmen

                            I went about 7PM on two weeknights, and didn't have a problem getting seats. Food came out at a nice pace and such that there wasn't too much on the table at once. If you say something to the server about having tickets, they might serve more simultaneously.

                            If it's crowded, a few doors down you can try Norikonoko if in the mood for regular style Japanese or Tumi, the Peruvian place upstairs from it.

                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              thanks! and especially for the Tumi rec! i've been wondering about another new peruvian place i'd heard about in berkeley but couldn't remember the name. menu looks great there too.

                  2. went to Kiraku last night - loved it. We had the pea shoots and grated bottarga off the daily Specials menu, the pork spare ribs in orange marmalade, the corn fritters, the buta kim (pork with kimchi and egg) and the foie gras daikon.

                    the pea shoot dish was refreshing and light, with the bottarga making a very pungent counterpoint. the fritters were great, but needed, to me, some kind of sauce, something acidic, so we asked and received a bowl of ponzu. surprisingly, the pork ribs were our least favorite item - a bit dry and the flavor was one-note, with no discernible orange flavor. my favorite dishes of the night were the buta kim and the foie daikon. the buta kim was just a homey bowl of steamy goodness, that got better when i thought i was full of it, ate some of the foie daikon and went back to the buta kim. really wonderful. the foie daikon was fantastic. first of all, foie - good, and then the daikon was a revelation for me - i'd never had it cooked, and its texture and juiciness kind of mirrored the foie.

                    the service was fast, attentive, and yes, the young women were all incredibly sweet. we loved that the place is so casual, with such interesting food.

                    We each had a happy hour beer (i think $4, with a bowl of edamame) - Asahi, and were stuffed when we left. Total was $60. Awesome.

                    We realized after the fact that we hadn't ordered any of the sashimi dishes, or any other seafood, which was a shame, and an oversight i intend to correct next time. There is so much to explore on this menu.

                    pics attached of the foie and pork kimchi dishes.

                    1. Stopped in for another Foie Gras taste before the ban and got the Foie Gras Diakon.

                      While good overall, it didn't wow me.

                      There were 3 small disks of foie on the stewed diakon which were over-seared on the top creating a tough "skin".

                      The diakon was stewed to a perfect consistency that was soft enough to eat with the supplied renge spoon, but not mushy.

                      1. Finally got around to trying Kiraku. Really excellent.

                        Tried a tsunami sampler ($10) of the three most unusual items (pictured clockwise from left): "sake thief" salted bonito stomach, like eating salt with a cartilage texture, you take a super-tiny bite and drink; fermented (raw) firefly squid, sweet and sour, a bit miso-tasting; aburi mentaiko, seared spicy cod roe, familiar to me from Korean places.

                        Fried baby octopus special ($7) was great, large portion, excellent dipping sauce. I think they must be the same kind they use in takoyaki.

                        Garlic edamame ($4), spinach ($5), menma (spicy bamboo shoot with pork), all good and good portions.

                        Grilled black cod ($14), expensive but perfectly done.

                        Roasted tea blanc-manger ($6), served with genmai cha, really fun. Some kind of black rice / bean pudding on top really made the dish.

                        Great food, great value. I had one sampler and two glasses of sake and the total was $40, but there were much cheaper options. The card that came with the sampler had the purplest prose I've ever seen about sake: "Glacial incrementations of flavor achieved by sub-zero bottle aging impart both silky viscosity and depth."

                        I wanted to try the soba noodles but I'd had lunch at Wood Tavern.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          i've been back 3 or 4 times. nothing has ever disappointed.

                        2. And don't forget the old Kirala famous for their robata (and also everything else)!

                          1. another stellar dinner at Kiraku. Rick Bayless should have come here (speaking re that other thread)... nothing similar to other places i've been to here.

                            we had a cauliflower panna cotta with uni and jellied dashi - to die for - a sweet/salty, creamy, comfort bomb, homey yet delicate; australian wagyu beef tenderloin tataki - lovely rosy-red seared beef slices in a spicy/salty/garlicky sauce; steamed clams with butter - very mild, nice clam flavor; eggplant in a sweet miso glaze - the only slightly less awesome dish of the evening - but still really good and comforting; black cod in sake lees - tender and fatty; kiraku duck - perfectly pearly pink slices of roasted duck breast, served a tad under-temperature but still delicious; crispy pork belly skewers with a salty miso paste - as my sister said, the best pork chops i've ever had - they gave the beef tenderloin a run for the money; and a chilled sake sampling: Ippin Junmai, Kokuryu Tokusen, and Tamagawa Kinsho. my sister loved the Kokuryu best - "velvety", she found it, and my favorite was the Tamagawa - had a little more kick for me, with a little bit of a wine thing going on.

                            the cooking here and quality of food is just mind blowing. fine dining food without the fine dining experience, and in a good way.

                            1. +1 for Kiraku. Excellent izakaya. Haven't been to Ippuku, but hear it's very good, especially if you like yakitori. But I liked that Kiraku had raw items as well as grilled. We haven't tried everything on the diverse menu, but everything we ordered was outstanding.

                              And reservations for two were pretty easy to get, though they require a minimum of $30 per person. (There was no such restriction mentioned for larger parties.) Still, that was no problem at all — there were so many things to try on the menu.

                              Tip: Don't skip the grilled squid. Weeks later, this dish still haunts my dreams.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: zaetah

                                Ippuku's got lots of non-robata items.

                              2. Kiraku continues to wow. We had the special kampachi sashimi - delicate and substantial at the same time, fresh and meaty; the duck wontons - our least favorite of the night (something tasted a little funky but mostly they were just regular); seared cod roe - a completely new taste sensation for me - salty, very redolent of the sea, with an amazing tender texture - the roe are still encased in the sac, which is seared brown on the outside, then sliced, and served with grated daikon; pork belly skewers - we couldn't resist ordering them again - at $3 a pop they are a steal and utterly delicious; and the star of the evening, for me at least, roasted beef tongue with truffle oil and truffle salt - fantastic, tender, chewy, meaty, beautiful slices of tongue, with the heady aroma and crunch of truffle oil and salt. there is still so much of the menu still to explore.

                                1 Reply
                                1. Got the grilled beef tongue with truffle, that's a remarkable dish, I'm not sure I've ever had rare tongue before. The chef cuts a filet out of the whole tongue, if the menu didn't say tongue I'd have thought it was maybe skirt steak.

                                  Eggplant with miso was also fantastic. It'll be hard not to order that.

                                  Duck potstickers, mentaiko, whole squid, omelet salad, pork belly skewers, spinach, all very tasty.

                                  Corn fritter and fried rice were a bit bland by comparison, might not order those again.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    we always ask for ponzu suace with the corn fritter. fixes it right up.