Wednesday, October 13, 2010

O Chame in Berkeley's Fourth Street

Japanese Cuisine Born in California
1830 Fourth St., Berkeley
Fourth Street Shopping District
PH: 510.841.8783
Open lunch daily, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner daily, 5:30 to 9 p.m. (till 9:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat.)
Reservations, major credit cards accepted

Here's one last post from when my Mom and sister were in town a few weekends ago. After I did my annual trip to Target (because they had a rental car), we looked for dinner nearby so I suggested Fourth Street in Berkeley. Knowing that my Mom rarely strays from Chinese food, we went the next closest -- Japanese at O Chame.

I've always walked past O Chame while shopping in the neighborhood, but never checked it out so didn't know what to expect from this 20-plus year-old restaurant by owner/chef David Vardy. Walking in, I almost thought we were in a Southwestern restaurant because of the stucco walls and Mission-style lines. But no, it's definitely Japanese food but being in Berkeley it definitely had a California seasonal perspective.

Since the menu is based on seasonal ingredients, it had a limited selection. But that was OK by me because after days of eating a lot of Chinese food with my Mom, I actually had a small appetite.

We started with something refreshing, the Arugula Salad with Golden Beets and Salted Eggs ($9.50). This was lightly dressed and I'm a lover of any kind of beets, so this was a nice starter. Oddly enough, I don't really remember the salted eggs, although I know it wasn't that salty.

My sister loves Agedashi Tofu ($7), the traditional fried tofu dish, so that's what she got as a starter. O Chame's version came with a big pile of seaweed on top, and filled nearly to the rim with the clear broth. My sister said she enjoyed it, and liked the way it was lightly fried.

She also got the seared Ahi Tuna Sashimi ($14.50) with horseradish sauce. This was a big platter of semi-raw fish. My sister liked the sauce but felt the kitchen went a bit too long with the searing, and I agreed just looking at it. Sashimi should really be 99 percent raw.

I ordered the appetizer sized Braised Pork Ribs ($10.50), which came out looking like a lot of meat and also a bit bronze. The meat was very tender, and I enjoyed the simple soy-ginger marinade.

My Mom ordered the Roasted Pork Tenderloin Udon, which seems to be O Chame's specialty because they had a lot of noodle selections (you can replace the udon noodles with soba). I don't have a picture of it because my Mom never waits for my photography before she starts digging in to her food. (I still haven't gotten her trained.) But while the bowl seemed nice and big, she seemed a bit lukewarm to the noodles and the broth. But the ingredients in it all looked fresh.

O Chame offers up a different take to Japanese cuisine. You can't go in expecting to find a lot of traditional favorites, but the service and vibe of the place is inviting and warm. There are some interesting moments on the limited menu, but don't go in expecting too much.

Single guy rating: 3.25 stars (Japanese fitting for Berkeley)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:

1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

O Chame on Urbanspoon


foodhoe said...

I love O'Chame, the bowl of pork tenderloin noodles is my favorite... it's one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in the east bay.

Jenster said...

I had to laugh at the image of your mom not waiting for her food to be photographed. Don't ever get between a Chinese mom and her food -- You could get poked in the eye (or camera) with a chopstick!

The Librarian said...

I went to O Chame several years ago with my newly vegetarian daughter. I thought the food was ok, but the whole place struck me as emotionally cold and pretty esoteric. She liked it though. We haven't been back since, but she remembers it fondly.
I thought it was hilarious that your mom won't wait for you to photograph her food. I can see my mother doing the same thing. Don't get between a Jewish mother and her food!