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When it comes to Japanese food, Berkeley has some of the finest! Whether you are into specific Japanese foods like sushi, curry, ramen, Berkeley has it all. Therefore, I would like to share some one of a kind hidden spots that I think are worth trying when you are craving delicious Japanese food or even if you are just planning your next visit to Berkeley.
Rice is a staple in Asian cuisine, and especially in Japanese cuisine. Growing up, my family would always make me onigiri (Japanese rice balls) for lunch or even for a quick snack! The common onigiri’s are generally rice balls that are filled with proteins such as salmon, shrimp, or vegetarian such as pickled plum. After the filling is made, the onigiri then gets pressed into a triangular shape and wrapped with seaweed. However, at Riceful, they make their onigiri’s a little different because their onigiri’s are OKINAWAN STYLE! Okinawa Onigiri is a deluxe version of a musubi which includes ingredients like spam, egg, seafood, and etc. They almost resemble a hotdog like fold and they are easy to eat! All of the onigiri’s here are generously portioned and delicious. Here are several recommendations I normally order when I make a visit:
Unagi Onigiri: If you haven’t had ungai before, you are in luck! What is Unagi you ask? Unagi is the Japanese word for freshwater eel. The Unagi Onigiri is freshly made with marinated eel, lettuce, egg, spam, Japanese mayo, and their signature house sauce. It’s so filling and delicious! The spam and egg add a different touch in comparison to regular Japanese onigiri and I absolutely love it!
Pork Boy Onigiri: This one is a LIMITED item so get it while its still available! I love this onigiri because you don’t see many onigiris in Japan that have a pork katsu inside! It’s just not that common. So, when I found out that Riceful offered a Pork Boy Onigiri I was on it right away, and it did not disappoint. It is made with a delicious pork katsu, cheese or lettuce (your choice), egg, spam, Japanese mayo and their katsu sauce! It’s absolutely delicious and I highly recommend trying it.
Meat Bundle: If you want to enjoy these Okinawa style onigiris with your family then I highly recommend to order the Meat Bundle. The Meat Bundle includes 5 meat onigiris which are: Hotdog Onigiri, Cheese Pork Boy Onigiri, Simmered Beef Onigiri, Chicken Katsu Onirigi, and a Porksung Onigiri. This way the whole family can enjoy Riceful!
LOCATION: 2435 Durant Ave Berkeley, CA 94704
2) Marugame Udon
If you haven’t heard of Marugame Udon before, you will definitely know about it after this blog post because I am a HUGE fan of their food. I first discovered Marugame Udon in Hawaii during my vacation and was so excited when they finally opened their doors in San Francisco. However, being from the East Bay, Marugame was just too far to visit and I would only visit occasionally if I were in town. This past year or so, they made a location in Berekely and I am excited! The one thing I love about Marugame is their fast and efficient concept. You walk in, order your udon bowl, and slide up to the side dishes, then slide up to pay. Here are some of the things I enjoy ordering
Nikutama Udon: When I love a dish, I am the type to keep coming back and ordering that same dish, and the Nikutama Udon is THAT dish. It is made with fresh sanuki udon noodles served with Marugame’s signature sweet and savory beef in their signature bukkake sauce. The cool thing is that you can order this udon hot or cold (for hot summer days). I love how dense the broth is for this udon. You have to note that because this borth isn’t a “soup” there is much less liquid in the bowl. The broth is almost similar to that of a sauce that you mix with the noodles to get a rich flavor. Too much of it would cause the udons to be very salty.
Curry Udon: If you have not had Japanese curry before, it is absolutely delicious. Now imagine that Japanese curry rice dish in Udon form. The Curry Udon is made with Marugame’s signature freshly made to order sanuki udon noodles, and then served with their dense and savory beef curry broth. If you are looking for a filling, comforting, and delicious warm bowl of udon noodles, this curry udon is for you.
Side Dishes: You cannot leave Marugame with just one bowl of udon noodles. You will pass by their station of tempura and musubis that you simply cannot pass up! However I have a couple of favorite items that I recommend trying: Sweet Potato Tempura, Shrimp Tempura, Tamago Tempura, and their Big Chicken Katsu.
LOCATION: 1919 Shattuck Ave Ste 103 Berkeley, CA
If you are into Izakayas (Japanese tapas and drinks), then you will surely love what Ippuku in Berekely has to offer. I love going to Ippuku for the high-quality ingredients they use for their dishes and the complex Japanese flavors that take me back to my times eating in Japan. If you visit, you must try the following dishes:
Pork Belly: I am a sucker for delicious pork belly, but Ippuku has a one of a kind pork belly dish! One bite is heaven on earth.
Grilled Squid: If you are a fan of seafood, you must try the grilled squid offered at Ippuku. It is simply delicious and pairs really well with a Japanese beer. It comes with a side of lemon and Japanese house sauce that I believe is Japanese mayo that I like to dip it in and eat.
Crab Croquettes: I have had Japanese Potato croquettes but have never had crab croquettes until I made my visit here, and they did not disappoint! I highly recommend ordering this tapas dish as well!
LOCATION: 2130 Center St Ste 101 Berkeley, CA 94704