At Berkeley's Kiraku, izakaya 2.0
Corn tempura with green-tea salt
The waitress at Kiraku, a month-old izakaya-style restaurant near UC Berkeley, might try to dissuade you from ordering the menu's more unusual selections.
At the mention of a dish called Sake Thief, or salted bonito stomach ($5), she shakes her head warily, warning of acquired tastes. Ignore her, and a tiny dish appears, containing not fish belly but fermented guts, a powerfully salty matrix that is traditionally paired with sake (a lot of it, we suspect).
Her admonitions about fermented firefly squid are unnecessary. The tender cephalopods ($6) are unthreatening, laced with sesame oil and white sesame seeds.
Other options, like the buta-kim, a sizzling skillet of kimchi and pork topped with a poached egg ($8), and corn tempura, expertly fried, lacy fritters studded with sweet kernels ($7), require no warnings whatsoever.
The restaurant also prepares more-familiar dishes. Agedashi tofu ($5.50) and chicken karaage ($7.50) are in attendance, and for noodle lovers, there is the obligatory bowl of ramen ($8).
But life is short, and you can have those anywhere, anytime. When presented with the option, we always take the gastronomic road less traveled.
Kiraku, 2566B Telegraph Ave., Berkeley; 510-848-2758 or kirakuberkeley.com
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