February 26, 2024
Late-night diners near UC Berkeley now have a new place for esoteric sake, grilled skewers and fried chicken karaage.

Ever tasted a Japanese Hogwarts cocktail? You can now at Kinda Izakaya, a new restaurant in Berkeley specializing in Japanese bar food and quirky shochu drinks.

Kinda is in its soft opening and is testing out late-night hours that should appeal to the UC Berkeley crowd (open until 11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and midnight Friday-Saturday, according to Instagram). The space on University Avenue is warm and cozy, with wood accents, classic Japanese posters and a sprawling bar. “Drink Sake / Stay Kinda” commands a sign, and yes, a variety of sake bottles line the rafters – there’s Born Gold muroka (unrefined sake), Michinoku Onikoroshi “Demon Slayer” (dry sake) and much more.

Kinda Izakaya is a new late-night restaurant in Berkeley that does Japanese bar food such as grilled skewers, fried chicken, sashimi and shochu cocktails. (John Metcalfe/Bay Area News Group) 

The menu offers a horde of appetizers designed to match with your beverage of choice. There are standards like shumai and gyoza, shishito peppers with yuzu salt and dashimaki tamago, and lesser-seen dishes like sake-roasted pork belly and sauteed kinoko mushrooms. From the deep fryer comes crispy chicken, tofu, squid legs and vegetable tempura, and other menu sections are devoted to noodle soups, rice dishes and sashimi and carpaccio. And of course there are rice balls and grilled skewers like beef tongue, chicken heart, okra, eggplant and bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms.

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The restaurant seems to be still testing out new stuff, as apparent from an Instagram post featuring a Tomato Refreshing Welcome Shot that looks like a juicy, peeled tomato with herbs in a shot glass. Is it a drink, an appetizer or something else? Who knows?

As for that Japanese Hogwarts tipple, which mixes Onigoroshi sake and sour yuzu, it’s in a list of “Signature Cocktails” that are made with shochu or sake. There’s also an Old Town Berkeley with bitters and shiso syrup, a Tokyo Highball with matcha and yuzu liqueur and a Hotto Sho with hot sake, ginger and honey. The restaurant also offers beer, wine by the glass or bottle and non-alcoholic sodas and iced green tea.

Details: Kinda Izakaya opens at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday at 1941A University Ave., Berkeley; kindaizakaya.com.

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