When Iyasare opened on Fourth Street in Berkeley in 2013, it replaced the beloved O Chamé a 23-year institution known for its clean, locally-driven Japanese food. The buzz about what might replace it—in essence, what would appeal to the city’s most devout shoppers who frequented the upscale shops in the neighborhood—didn’t last long. The space was quickly sold to James Syhabout (Commis, Hawker Fare) and Sho Kamio, who had been blowing people away with his cooking at Yoshi’s on Fillmore.

Iyasare outdoor patio
Iyasare outdoor patio (Wendy Goodfriend)

Kamio had been the opening chef for Fillmore Live Entertainment Group’s Yoshi’s on Fillmore, developer Michael Johnson’s push into Lower Fillmore that breathed new life into the jazz scene in 2007. Though the restaurant was ill-fated because of financial troubles, Kamio’s cooking notched up San Francisco’s Japanese dining game considerably. I remember stopping in early on and being transported by Kamio’s restrained, masterful creativity with traditional Japanese cooking, which seemed transformative in a town of tired sushi. Despite early success, the project couldn’t survive financially, and it closed in 2015, after much floundering. (Kamio left in 2013 to open Iyasare.)

Iyasare interior
Iyasare interior (Wendy Goodfriend)

The chef, from northwest Japan, named his new restaurant “Iyasare,” which means “to be healed,” in homage to his homeland after the devastating earthquake of 2011. His ramen is an unheralded beauty, served only at lunch and only in three forms: Sendai miso, charshu (often spelled chashu) miso and vegetarian shoyu. These traditional offerings are characteristic of Kamio’s bent toward elegant simplicity, made with impeccable ingredients and obvious care.

Charshu miso ramen
Charshu miso ramen (Wendy Goodfriend)

We ordered two bowls, the charshu miso and vegetarian shoyu, both designated by their soup bases. The meat version has a base of dashi miso broth and is laden with rich tamar-braised pork belly, minced chicken, which gives it a nice texture, and vegetables, including crunchy bean sprouts and bamboo shoots. We added ajitama, a seasoned soft-boiled egg. The charshu pork gives the bowl a sweet, fatty depth, a compelling juxtaposition with the salty egg.

Vegetarian shoyu ramen
Vegetarian shoyu ramen (Wendy Goodfriend)

The vegetarian ramen is worthy of a monastery kitchen: spinach, mizuna, seaweed, bamboo shoots, tofu and bean sprouts in a deep soy broth, which we (not being monastics) enlivened with a side of spicy Sendai miso, something I wish I had a little jar of in my fridge. Alas, it seems to be a secret recipe, as is the formula for the noodles, made by a local company to Kamio’s strict specifications.

The noodles from the vegetarian shoyu ramen
The noodles from the vegetarian shoyu ramen (Wendy Goodfriend)

The dinner menu here is more diverse and more complex than the midday offerings, and there are a few dishes that feature the Sendai miso, but there’s no ramen. So, you’d better go for lunch.

Iyasare restaurant exterior
Iyasare restaurant exterior (Wendy Goodfriend)

Iyasare
1830 Fourth St.
Berkeley, CA 94703 [Map]
Ph: (510) 845-8100
Hours: Sun-Thu, 11:30am-2pm, 5:30-9pm; Fri-Sat, 11:30am-2pm, 5:30-10pm
Price Range: $$ (ramen, $12-$16)
Facebook: Iyasare

Iyasare’s Lunch Ramen: An Elegant, Hearty Affair 23 September,2016Kim Westerman

Author

Kim Westerman

Kim Westerman has been writing about food and wine for most of her adult life. Originally from North Carolina, she moved to Berkeley in 2006 to pursue the California dream, which, it turns out, is all it’s cracked up to be. She’s a farmers' market junkie, a lover of all things tomato, and Champagne-obsessed. She loves to cook with her kids, seven and two, and she makes frequent pilgrimages to International Boulevard in search of her next favorite Mexican dish. She spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about food and wine pairing, often starting with the wine and working backwards when planning menus. She is a Level I Sommelier and a Licensed Q-Grader. Her work has appeared in KQED's Bay Area Bites, Forbes.com, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table, Fodor’s Travel Guides, and lots of other publications. You can follow Kim on Twitter @kimwesterman

Author

Wendy Goodfriend

I am the Senior Interactive Producer for KQED Food. I have designed and produced food-related websites and blogs for KQED including Bay Area Bites; Check, Please! Bay Area;  Taste This; Jacques Pepin's websites; Weir Cooking in the City and KQED Food. When I am not creating and managing food websites I am taking photos and video of Bay Area Life and designing online navigation systems. My professional education and training includes: clinical psychology, photography, commercial cooking, web design, information architecture and UX. You can find me engaged in social media on Twitter @bayareabites and on Facebook at Bay Area Bites. I can also be found photoblogging at look2remember.

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