Iyasare – Berkeley, CA

Iyasare

1830 Fourth Street
iyasare-berkeley.com

Iyasare opened in late 2013 as part of the Bay Area Japanese food explosion that is going strong in 2016. The restaurant immediately received critical acclaim, earning a Bib Gourmand award in 2015 (not renewed in 2016).

What is unique about Iyasare is that they are not a cookie cutter Japanese restaurant.  They do not serve sushi, ramen, or the standard grilled/fried izakaya fare. instead, they take Japanese ingredients and flavors, and prepare dishes in a California-Japanese fusion way.  The result is innovative and often delicious.

Drinks

We started off with a cocktail and a pour of sake.  The cocktail was the daily special, a bourbon based beverage.  The sake pour comes with the overflow vessel to show generosity.  Depending on who your pourer is, you can get more or less “generosity.”

Iyasare_01_Cocktail

Iyasare_01_sake

Uzaku – Grilled Unagi

with Japanese eggplant, shitake mushrooms, ginger bulbs, tamari rice vinegar

Iyasare_02a_Uzaku

Iyasare_02b_Uzaku

The first dish we had was a saucy eel with some explosively flavorful mushrooms and eggplant.  The eel was soft and tender.  The wasbi added a nice spice compliment.

Ocean Umami

hokkaido scallop, ikura, sea urchin, fermented wasbi leaf, nori ponzu

Iyasare_03b_Ocean UmamiIyasare_03a_Ocean Umami This was my most highly dish of the night based on the description, ingredients, and previous photos I saw. The presentation lived up to the billing…it sits beautifully on the plate. The flavor was good but it did not have the impact I was expecting.

Octopus Terrine

black miso garlic, swooping farm lemon balm, romano beans, pickled okra, leek ash

Iyasare_04_Octopus Terrine

This dish wins for most unique and unexpected item for the night. The terrine was slightly gelatinous with a soft flavor that contrasted nicely with the rubbery chewy octopus.  The miso paste added a nutty component.

Mentaiko Spaghetti

spicy cod roe, reef squid, kaiware, shiso, garlic-ginger butter

Iyasare_05_Mentaiko PastaAnother delectable dish that is in a close race with the unagi as the best of the night.  The mentaiko added a creamy kick to the pasta that left me wishing that we ordered two.

Mediterranean Sea Bass

sea bass, uni, ikura, nori

Iyasare_06_Sea Bass

The off menu special of the day was a sea bass, deboned and served whole topped with similar ingredients as the Ocean Umami. The fish was meaty and juicy while the dashi-ponzu sauce was a mild, zesty compliment.

Fudge and Cheesecake Mochi

Iyasare_07_Mochi

Dessert was six bite sized mochi balls.  Three fudge with a chocolate topping and three cheesecake with a strawberry hat. Both were light and refreshing; a satisfying end to the meal.

Iyasare is innovative. The Japanese flavors and ingredients are mostly there but the style and result as distinctly not traditional Japanese. The result is a well executed hybrid  of Japan and California that stands out amongst the flood of sushi houses offering edomae style omakase.

Iyasare changes the menu frequently enough that a return visit would not be a repeat visit at a price point that is in line with what should be the expectation in the Bay Area.

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