Kirala is so popular that people start lining up here half an hour before opening time, and it’s easy to see why. The menu at this Berkeley restaurant offers top quality sushi and robata grill, along with interesting desserts such as tempura ice cream and sizzling udon, guaranteed to warm you up on the coldest of days. But where Kirala really shines is its rolls. Try the Rainbow Roll, with crab, avocado, and four kinds of fish, or the Dragon Roll, with shrimp tempura and eel.
Kirala, 2100 Ward Street, Berkeley, CA, USA +1 (510) 549-3486
If you’re looking for a crowd pleaser, head to Joshu-Ya Brasserie. This restaurant has a large menu that includes both ‘from the sea’ and ‘from the land’ options. People who aren’t so sure about raw fish will love the honey-garlic Korean style wings with kimchi aioli or the grilled pork belly tacos with red cabbage slaw and cilantro-jalapeño pesto, Those looking for great sushi will also love Joshu-Ya Brasserie’s nigiri and rolls. Try the Paparazzi Roll with yellowtail, tuna, salmon, and avocado, or the Boulevard Roll with spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, and garlic aioli.
Joshy-Ya Brasserie, 2441 Dwight Way, Berkeley, CA, USA +1 (510) 848-5260
Jodoku Sushi, located on Oakland’s popular Piedmont Avenue, is great for people who love trying new and inventive combinations. The menu offers nearly 50 unique rolls, from the Fire Cracker with deep fried spicy tuna, eel, avocado, and jalapeño to the Mexican Roll with spicy crab, avocado, and cucumber. The nigiri at Jodoku Sushi is also a delicious and budget friendly way to get your sushi fix. A nine-piece sushi combo, which includes options such as smoked sake salmon and sea urchin, will cost you around $20.
Shimizu Japanese Cuisine
Shimizu Japanese Cuisine has its fish delivered daily and all of the food here is MSG free. You’ll taste this promise in whatever you order. Try the Ladybug Roll with salmon and scallop or the Liberty Roll with albacore tuna, salmon, avocado, and blueberry sauce. More traditional rolls, such as California rolls and spicy tuna rolls, are available as well. Even vegetarians will enjoy a trip to Shimizu Japanese Cuisine, as the restaurant offers a vegetable tempura roll and a Veggie Lover roll with cucumber, avocado, fried tofu, and mushrooms.
Shimizu Japanese Cuisine, 4290 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA, USA +1 (510) 653-7672
If you’re looking for simple sushi, try Berkeley’s Kiku Sushi. Here, you’ll find a classic menu that offers items such as salmon skin rolls, Dragon rolls, and shrimp tempura rolls, as well as high-quality nigiri and sashimi. To get the best value, come during lunch and order the Sushi Lunch Special, which includes six pieces of nigiri, one roll, and a bowl of miso soup for under $15. Or try the equally budget-friendly Moriawase Box, which features four pieces of sashimi, four pieces of nigiri, one roll, and miso soup.
Vegetarians who are often frustrated by their limited options at other Japanese restaurants will fall in love with Cha-Ya. This restaurant has an entirely vegetarian menu, and all even non-vegetarians should give it a try. Order the vegetable tempura roll, which is filled with squash, carrots, yam, and green beans, or the vegan roll, with spinach, tofu, cucumber, broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, and picked ginger. Make sure you save room for dessert; the vegan ice cream sundae with pineapple, green tea sauce, azuki bean sauce, and soy vanilla ice cream is so good that it rivals most traditional sundaes.
Cha-Ya, 1686 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA, USA +1 (510) 981-1213
SUMO Roll is Berkeley’s answer to San Francisco’s popular Sushirrito. This Berkeley eatery offers sushi rolls the size of burritos, and they’re all stuffed with delicious and high quality ingredients. Try the Shinsen with longfin tuna, picked daikon, bell peppers, and ginger-soy aioli, or the Upstream with ginger lemon wild salmon, romaine lettuce, crunchy noodles, and green beans. All menu items can be made gluten-free, and vegetarians and vegans have plenty of options as well to ensure that everyone can have a SUMO Roll experience.
SUMO Roll, 2173 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA, USA +1 (510) 841-9000
Musashi Japanese Restaurant
Musashi Japanese Restaurant offers a wide variety of nigiri and rolls at very affordable prices. Here, you can get a shrimp tempura roll or a California roll with real crab for under $10. This restaurant also has lots of interesting robata grill options, such as rib eye, duck, and chili pepper. Musashi Japanese Restaurant also offers an entire grilled squid; try it if you’re daring, but if not, you’ll be more than satisfied with a classic spicy salmon roll or salmon skin roll.
Ozumo, located in Oakland’s bustling Uptown District, is the city’s trendiest Japanese restaurant. The modern space is home to Oakland’s largest sushi bar, a robata grill, a sake lounge, and three private rooms. On some nights, local DJs enhance Ozumo’s contemporary atmosphere, but the upbeat music fails to outshine the main event: the food. The menu includes nigiri and rolls along with cooked meat and fish options, and all are delicious. Sushi lovers should try the Gosho roll with salmon, poached langoustine, and plum wine-braised apple, or the Bucho with tempura shrimp, snow crab, avocado, and tobiko.
Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland, CA, USA +1 (510) 286-9866
Uzen, located on Oakland’s popular College Avenue, has some of the most authentic Japanese food you’ll find this side of the Pacific Ocean. All of the dishes are so beautifully plated that it will seem a shame to dig in, but once you take a bite, you’ll be glad that you did. You can’t go wrong with a simple sashimi or nigiri selection, but if you’re hankering for something a little different, go for the deep fried softshell crab or the miso marinated black cod.
Uzen, 5415 College Avenue, Oakland, CA, USA +1 (510) 654-7753