One of the most popular restaurants in Berkeley’s toney Fourth Street shopping district, known for its bold, umami-forward Japanese flavors, Iyasare suffered a setback this past October, when smoke filled the building during a busy Saturday lunch service, forcing customers to evacuate the dining room, as Berkeleyside Nosh reported at the time. But a reader wrote in to Eater SF yesterday with good news: After a four-month hiatus, Iyasare is back open for business today.
Chef-owner Sho Kamio confirmed to Eater that the restaurant was open as of today’s lunch service. As it turns out, there wasn’t ever actually a full-blown fire back in October, and the smoke had to do with a “heat-related nail” behind a wall in the kitchen. But Kamio says the broader issue was that once they opened up all the walls, there were a host of issues that needed to be taken care of to bring the building up to code.
The nice thing, for customers? The six-year-old restaurant now has a sparkling, brand new kitchen. And Kamio has used his time off to revamp the menu. The lunch menu is mostly, “about 90 percent,” the same — he says customers would revolt if he stopped serving his popular, lunch-only ramen and donburi (rice bowls). But Kamio says Iyasare’s new dinner menu, on the other hand, is about 70 percent new dishes. He’s kept favorites, like his kakiage tempura and the raw-seafood “Ocean Umami,” that have been on the menu since the restaurant opened. Most notably, though, more than half of the new menu is now marked as gluten-free, and there are significantly more vegetable dishes than before — like a kale miso Caesar salad, with tofu crumbles. He’s also added showpiece dishes like the aburi gyu: a slice of torched A-5 Hokkaido beef topped with a cured egg yolk, fresh wasabi, and truffle salt. (See the full menus below.)
The several-month hiatus has also given the chef time to work on his other new project: the 15,000-square-foot Japanese restaurant that he’s opening on the rooftop of the Salesforce Transit Center. Kamio says he isn’t quite ready to reveal those plans, but that the concept is very contemporary and “very, very unique.” He’s tentatively targeting a fall 2020 opening date.
Iyasare’s revamped dinner menu:
The lunch menu: