Above: Siew-Chinn Chin, sous-chef, kitchen manager, and mentor at the Ramen Shop, on duty at her pickle station. Chin lets seasonal produce from the farmers’ market inspire ideas for the creative lacto-ferments and quick pickles she prepares at the restaurant. (Photo by Kristina Sepetys)


Here’s a small selection of local spots that offer both the flavor and the atmosphere of casual Japanese dining.

Ippuku in downtown Berkeley serves up yakitori made from local, organic meats together with other intriguing small plates like bacon mochi and squid-ink rice. During the daytime, you’ll find handmade soba noodles in more than a dozen combinations. Meals are served on rustic Japanese dishware in a comfortable, dark, cozy atmosphere.

2130 Center St, Berkeley; 510.665.1969, ippukuberkeley.com

For more than 20 years, O Chame on Berkeley’s 4th Street has been delighting diners with fresh, artful Japanese lunches and dinners in a space styled like a Meiji-period Tokyo café.

1830 4th St, Berkeley; 510.841.8783, ochame.com                   

The wildly popular Ramen Shop in Oakland entices palates after 4pm daily with steaming bowls of ramen noodles in rich, intensely flavored broth enhanced with local seasonal vegetables and meats, plus dessert treats like black sesame ice cream sandwiches.

5812 College Ave, Oakland; 510.788.6370, ramenshop.com