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Cha-Ya, Berkeley

Fine | Oct 13, 200112:58 AM

Many thanks to hounds who recommended this vegetarian gem in the Gourmet Ghetto (Shattuck)!

Most of the numerous dishes we tried were chosen from the wall listings and not the actual printed menu, but it was my feeling you almost couldn't go wrong here.

Particularly appealing were a sushi that enclosed tempura vegetables and a special of kabocha squash, chestnuts, tofu, and more.

Some dishes don't exactly match the expectations their descriptions elicit, but they're nonetheless mostly tasty, generous, and definitely "discoveries."

A mix of sauced, cooked vegetables on a soft layer of eggplant was satisfying (sorry I don't remember the name). We also enjoyed a second sushi, that included fresh beans; a salad of thin soba with a variety of nicely sliced vegetables; vegetarian gyoza (though I have had plumper and better-drained versions), and, perhaps a tad less, a curious fried porcini-tofu item with an almost creamy kiwi sauce.

Complemetary iced barley tea was a delight.

All those dishes plus a small jar of warm sake came to under $40!

Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian lovers of Japanese food will find much to please them here.

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