Sushi Lunch Special, Rainbow Roll, Seafood Gyoza
Occupation: Massage Therapist
Favorite Restaurant: Kirala
Reviewed Kirala: Sunday February 17, 2008
I’ve been dining at Kirala since the 70s when it was located inside the Berkeley Bowl. It is still at this approximate location with a huge parking lot across the street, which they share with Any Mountain. The same hostess (co-owner) is still there to greet you at the entrance, where you put your name down on a waiting list. For lunch, there is usually no wait; however, I’ve seen a line around the corner for dinner some nights there.
I would say I eat lunch at this trendy Japanese restaurant at least 3 times a week. I could easily eat there every day and not get bored. Why? Because their food is FRESH FRESH FRESH, especially their fish. Nothing else like it! For lunch they usually offer a Sushi Special (that’s what I end up ordering very often) and a Lunch Special (for those with a larger appetite). The chef puts together different tempting combinations on different days. You can see it presented on a tray before you decide to order it.
At dinnertime, there’s a change in atmosphere. It’s more of a “scene” in the evening. The place is usually bustling with energy (and noise!) The waitresses are running around like electric mosquitoes to get your food to you at a fast pace once you order. Kirala has a moderate selection of wine and beer but a generous and wonderful selection of premium, imported sakes. Not only do they have fantastic sushi and sashimi, what they do with their robata grill is to die for. They cook many of their main entrees on the robata grill as well: juicy rib-eye steak, tender sea bass or chicken, salmon grilled to perfection.
When I go to Kirala for dinner, I like to order a main dish to share and then treat myself to a variety of small samplings from the robata grill or sushi bar. For those sushi-lovers who are watching their budget, the menu at Kirala offers at least 5 different sushi dinners as main entrees. Whether you want to taste through their healthy menu or eat in a more traditional way, you can’t go wrong eating at Kirala. When you taste their sushi and sashimi, you feel as if the fishermen have just brought it in from the ocean minutes before. For those who don’t like seafood, there is a large variety of meat, vegetable, rice, and noodle dishes to choose from. There is something for everyone here. And you can spend $20 or $100 depending on how much or what you want to order.
When my friends want to get together to eat out, I always suggest Kirala as my first choice. I feel like I’m doing my body a favor when I eat at Kirala. That’s why I’d go back again, and again, and again.
Occupation: Environmental Scientist
Location: Palo Alto
Favorite Restaurant: Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
Reviewed Kirala: Sunday March 2, 2008
My fellow restaurant-goer and I were surprised to see the long line of people outside of Kirala Restaurant at 8:00 when we arrived for dinner, especially since it was a Sunday night and they don’t take reservations. After driving all the way to Berkeley from the south bay, I was a little disappointed to wait even a few minutes longer. Luckily, it seemed Kirala was designed to run as fast as possible, and despite the fact we were 14th on the list, we were seated within half an hour. Once seated, however, we felt no pressure to hurry up, eat, and leave. Quite the contrary. The waitstaff treated us well, and the sushi chefs were more than willing to stop and chat with us about the food.
Kirala is a bit hectic; you’ll typically find the restaurant area, the sushi bar, and the drink bar full to capacity, so expect a bit of confusion while you wait for a table. You might also help things along by opting to sit at the sushi bar where you can order and watch the sushi chefs prepare a stand-out meal.
We both agreed “above-average, but not deliriously spectacular” was how we would describe Kirala. The service was quick, pleasant, and professional for such a hectic place, and the sake/beer menu was just a bit more elegant than what you would find at an equivalent price. There were a few items on the menu (e.g. quail eggs) that one wouldn’t find at your average sushi bar, and the quality of the seafood is superb. However, after a 45-minute drive from the south bay, I might have asked for something a bit more spectacular. If I lived in Berkeley, on the other hand, I would probably eat at Kirala every week.
Keep in mind that, because we were seated at the counter, we didn’t get a crack at the kitchen menu which, from the looks of things, offers just about everything under the sun, provided you’re willing to wait for a table. We were able to take a peak at the plates crowd-surfing through the sea of guests, and they all looked appetizing (sizzling beef and chicken teriyaki fill the restaurant with mouth-watering aromas).
When you head out to Kirala for lunch or dinner, remember there is parking for customers across Shattuck Avenue, but don’t stray too far looking for appetizers if you get served with a 45+ minute wait. There isn’t much in the way of time-killing in the neighborhood. If you do happen by, and the line isn’t too long, consider stopping by Kirala for a decent sushi meal. Many people we met were repeat customers, a good sign for any restaurant.
Occupation: Photo Editor
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Chez Maman
Reviewed Kirala: Friday February 22, 2008
I had lunch at Kirala with a co-worker. It’s about a 10-minute drive from San Francisco where we live and work. The location is in a random area and the building was nondescript. Street parking was plentiful. Once inside, the place was pretty packed, but we were seated immediately at a table. They seemed to pack lots of tables in a small space; I was back to back with a 10 year old. The lunch menu seemed quite typical of most Bay Area Japanese restaurants, so we did what most first timers do: looked around to see what everyone was eating. Since that didn’t work, we decided on sushi rolls.
It took some time for someone to come over, actually, I believe we had to flag someone down. Our waitress seemed a little out of it, with a glazed look. We couldn’t decide between the gyoza and seafood gyoza. She recommended the seafood as the “regular gyoza was store bought and the seafood gyoza was handmade”. Actually, that’s the only time we heard her speak. The appetizers came out pretty quick. The seafood gyozas were very tasty, and the seaweed salad (with soybean paste) was a nice surprise. The main dishes also came out pretty quickly. The rainbow roll seemed fresh with four different types of fish. Unfortunately, the waitress was not around to identify the fish (I’m pretty sure two were salmon and tuna). The spicy tuna was really spicy — so much so that my throat was irritated. The Rock ‘n’ Roll was good and fresh and the negihama (yellow tail) was tasty. Again, I had to flag someone down to ask for water and tea.
Overall, I thought it was just ok. I’m not sure that I would make the trip again unless I was already in Berkeley. The service was lackluster and the waitstaff seemed out of it. The prices were reasonable and again, the sushi rolls were good. I have no problem driving outside of San Francisco to enjoy a good dish (I drive to Napa for cornbread!); I’m not sure this is worth the drive.