Iyasare Japanese Restaurant Berkeley Sho Kamio | Tasting Table San Francisco

Sho Kamio of Iyasare gets personal

Home is what you make of it, right?

At Iyasare, former Yoshi's and Ozumo chef Sho Kamio is specializing in the rustic food of his home in northeastern Japan. Growing up, his family owned a tiny ramen-ya near Sendai, and he named the restaurant "to be healed" in honor of the region's suffering after the 2011 earthquake.

You can sense a wintry hominess to mains such as the clams braised with sake and double-smoked bacon ($12) and the miso-marinated black cod poached in herbed oil ($24) and surrounded by cabbage, dashi and mushrooms. Kamio works traditional Sendai methods of curing, pickling and seasoning into many of the dishes, which he says gives them more umami.

Clams with sake and bacon at Iyasare

But the coolly dramatic space is far from bucolic, and Kamio's small plates end up transcending any regionalism, coming straight from his Technicolor imagination.

A dimpled stoneware bowl frames a riot of hues and textures: slices of crisp apple, tiny greens and translucent seaweeds ($7) sprouting from a bed of creamy tofu. Ovals of beet-marinated ocean trout ($12) the shade of a blood orange have a bulls-eye of yuzu aioli, fresh herbs and shards of fried burdock dabbed onto their centers.

Kamio's dishes are vivid, layered and thoroughly conceived, some of the most exciting food we've eaten in months.

Here's hoping the chef finds a home in Iyasare. We'd like him to stay.