Beautiful meals at Iyasare

    In less than a month since its opening, everybody I know on 4th Street has been to Iyasare, from the regular shoppers to the shop owners, and everybody praises it. The restaurant, operated by former Yoshi’s executive chef Shotaro Kamio, replaces the equally cute and also Japanese O Chame. The two restaurants have different concepts, of course, and experiencing both in the same space – reminiscing on O Chame’s menu and atmosphere while savoring Iyasare’s – was like tasting the fleeting grandeur of ukiyo-e aesthetics in the most delicious way possible.

    A beautiful arrangement: ikura (salmon roe), ankimo (monkfish liver), hotate (scallop, the white thing that is barely visible next to razor-thin slices of radish), mackerel (silvery grey, also almost invisible under the radish), and 4 beautiful sweet lobes of uni (sea urchin roe, on the maple leaf) ($22). The ankimo has a thick and dried rind, its flavors were a tad salty and smokey for my taste.(*) The uni was extra-creamy but a little too soft. The ikura was some lovely bubbles.

    You can order a side of sushi rice with the sashimi. Or just sushi rice. Actually, I ate every single last grain of rice in that bowl, and I’d be happy to skip the sashimi.

    Apple seaweed salad with fennel, pickled daikon and carrots, shaved bonito, citrus brown rice vinaigrette with fresh bits of blood orange, and two silken tofu cubes ($9). Nothing to complain here.

    Wagyu beef tataki ($13), slightly seared; the best way to eat them, we found, is:
    1. Place a tuft of green stringy stuff (julienned wasabi leaves, wasabi sprout, chicory, whatever leafy things) and a sliver of crispy garlic on a slice of beef,
    2. Daintily use your chopsticks to roll the beef to enclose the greens and the tangerine bits,
    3. Still using the chopsticks, turn the beef roll 2 times around to soak in the ponzu (the brown sauce).
    4. Stuff it in your mouth (if you manage to keep it together this far). Delicious.

    Our waitress weaving back and forth through the dinner rush hour.

    Our waitress weaving back and forth through the dinner rush hour.

    It was a Wednesday night, Iyasare was pretty peaceful and devoid of people, but only until about 7. Then, everybody in town poured in, the waitresses started to lose track of things, brought us things we didn’t order and simply couldn’t see us anymore.

    Miso-glazed Maple Leaf duck confit ($20). Embarassingly, we thought the “Maple Leaf” was part of the dish (but no, it’s the name of the duck farm). In our defense, the maple leaf in the sashimi plate led us astray. 😛

    I wasn’t too thrilled by the Tokyo turnip, the green beans and the gobo (burdock) in this dish. A length-wise-cut gobo would have been crunchier, and the turnip was cooked a hair too long. On the bright side, very rarely does a duck dish go wrong, and when it’s glazed with miso like this? Heavenly.

    The BEST of the night: gyutan (grilled beef tongue) ($17). Well, I always love beef tongue, so I’m biased. Maybe the duck was better. But this beef tongue dish was perfect as a whole, from the quick-pickled cucumber to the trio of miso (the black akamiso had the deepest, richest flavor among the three). When you cut into a slice of gyutan, you could feel through your knife how tender it was. I even ate a fourth of the grilled lemon (under the right piles of gyutan).

    We skipped desserts.

    Address: Iyasare
    1830 Fourth Street
    Berkeley, CA 94710
    (510) 845-8100

    (*) For comparison, B-dama’s ankimo is still the champion on the East Bay, and Musashi’s ankimo is surprisingly satisfactory for its price mark.

    A more comprehensive “map” of what we shared is on Ponga.

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