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Thursday, August 25, 2011

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By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri KrasovFor any self-respecting restaurant, having a university campus for a neighbor poses a mix of advantages and challenges. On one hand, the young crowd needs lots and lots of food. On the other hand, creative culinary inventions might go underappreciated with the budget-conscious student body.Joshu-ya Brasserie in Berkeley, recently reopened in place of a remodeled Joshu-ya Sushi Bar, strives to take the advantages and meet the challenges by offering high quality food at affordable prices.

Some might argue that with the perpetually hungry patrons there is no need to be creative. I say, the earlier they realize that the good taste is irreversible the better.Executive Chef/Owner Jason Kwon makes Joshu-ya equally accessible for the campus dwellers and sophisticated diners with an array of traditional sushi rolls, loved by the students, and creative takes on Japanese classics, appreciated by his more mature clientele.

Serving sustainable seafood from the sources careful not to overfish, and local seasonal fruit and vegetables surely adds to the new brasserie appeal.

Chef Kwon creates his original recipes using Asian and European cuisine for inspiration.

His omakase menu (chef’s tasting menu) quickly became the favorite of many regulars, and deservedly so. Lobster and uni (sea urchin) sashimi came atop arugula, asparagus, toy box tomato and pear salad with sweet mango dressing.Scrumptious monk fish “foie gras” was dressed with lemon vinaigrette, fried wonton, and matcha tea powder.Delicate slices of aji (horse mackerel) were placed atop a cloud of shaved daikon radish and sided with ikura sushi wrapped in a fresh cucumber.Nigiri sushi plate was my favorite, with an assortment of various kinds of tuna and different preparations of salmon over silky rice. The freshness of sake (from Scotland), maguro (from Hawaii), hamachi (from Japan) and hiramasa (from Australia) was unparalleled and the taste – simply divine.

Speaking of sake (not salmon) – Sho Chiku Bai warm sake in a porcelain bottle was a great accompaniment to the Japanese delicacies, as well as some creative cocktails – watermelon shochu martini and fresh cantaloupe saketini.For omakase main course the chef came up with a filling porridge dish enriched with slow roasted Berkshire pork belly (marinated for 12 hours, and cooked for 6 in the oven) and fried egg.

I must admit that I like Japanese restaurants for letting me have my dessert and eat it, too. Never overly sweet, always on a lighter side, Japanese traditional desserts invariably leave a good taste in one’s mouth.

For dessert at Joshu-ya we had some red bean ice cream and green tea pop corn ice cream over a bed of tapioca.

Besides the excellent food and drink, there are at least two major attractions at Joshu-ya – its ambience with cozy dining rooms and an outdoor terrace, and its young and friendly service. Joshu-ya Brasserie is located at 2441 Dwight Way in Berkeley, and is open daily for dinner and Monday though Saturday for lunch. For reservations call (510) 848-5260 or visit


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