We decided to try vegan Japanese food at Cha-Ya and we are glad we did.
Their prices are reasonable and their food is delicious!
We will definitively come back.
We decided to try vegan Japanese food at Cha-Ya and we are glad we did.
Their prices are reasonable and their food is delicious!
We will definitively come back.
We were only in Berkeley for the day and I had picked this as our lunch stop, I'm so glad I did! The menu is large with lots of interesting appetizer, entree, sushi, and noodle options, and the waitress confirmed that there's no egg or dairy in anything! My husband ordered a three roll combo (eggplant, daikon, and avocado) with miso soup, and I got a buckwheat noodle dish with sea vegetables and the cha-ya roll, which just looked too good to pass up!! It was all so, so good and really filling, and the presentation was beautiful (especially the buckwheat noodles, which came in all these different plates/dishes). I wish we had about three more meals here to try more on the menu, give this place a try if you're in the area!!
This is the best East Bay Vegan restaurant and the best restaurant in California next to it's sister restaurant in S.F.. The Sushi is great, the atmosphere is great and it is very authentic Japanese cuisine. Do not be afraid to use your smart phone to look up the names of items in a search engine unless you have lived in Japan. When you find the dishes you like, you will realize that this restaurant is fantastic and will return often. It is a cash only restaurant. They can do NOGO (No garlic, no onion) but you must work with them. I like the deep fried Sushi.
Delicious vegan Japanese food. My favorites are the pot stickers (great dipping sauce) and cold buckwheat noodles with tempura. Soups are also very good with delicious broths. Nice atmosphere and there is a "to go" refrigerated case with various entrees, desserts, and sides to go if you're in a hurry (but it's a small selection). Located in a very safe and walkable section of Berkeley and I find that parking is relatively easy. Cash only! (They have an ATM machine in the restaurant)
I never thought I would enjoy sushi again, and then I found Cha-Ya. It was awesome! We got the Vegan Roll, the Cha-Ya Roll, the Shitake Roll and the Inari. Oh, I forgot to mention we started off with miso soup. Everything was delicious! And the service was excellent. The only flaw was that they were cash only.
To say that this place is amazing would be a profound understatement. Do yourself the favor. I don't go to Cha-Ya often, but each time that I do, I am blown away. The eggplant tofu portabello dengaku will make your toes curl. The soba noodle salad is blissful. Really, you can't go wrong with anything on the menu. The dishes are delectable and the presentation is highly creative. Go. Savor.
I went vegan for animal-welfare reasons, not health-reasons. And yet, I've been coming to this largely healthy place for about a decade (not all of it is healthy.) I dare say it's my favorite restaurant. The biggest problem for new-comers is that people don't know what to order. You may want to ease into the unusual mountain vegetables of Japan. Here are my recommendations...
-Sake: I stick to the locally produced stuff, served hot from beautiful hand-made ceramics.
-Plum wine: A cool, sweet wine, to cool off after spicy bites of wasabi.
-Brown rice tea: Amazing, light, balanced Japanese tea made with toasted brown rice.
-Agadashi Tofu: Perfection. Large blocks of carefully fried tofu adorned with kaiware (clovers), dusted with dried red seaweed, and swimming in an amazing broth-like sauce.
-Gyoza: To a typical Northern Californian, this might taste like a variation of a good potsticker, basically.
-Cha-Ya Nabe (vegan sukiyaki): My absolute favorite soup in this world. Too sweet for some. Basically a pot of veggies with a bit of noodles on the bottom and tofu/mushrooms for protein. I especially love the kabocha squash and role of steamed spinach they put in there. The types of mushrooms they use seems to vary by season.
-Yasai(?) with tempura: This has a milder, meatier flavor profile and can be served with tempura. I don't usually get this but my date does.
-Miso: Comes with sushi combos (per menu specifications.) Vegan miso soup with delicate, melt-in-your-mouth silken tofu and moderately-sized slices of seaweed.
-Cha-Ya Roll: This is not for the health-nut. It's a delicious sushi roll battered and friend like tempura. It is then sliced and drizzled with a delectably sweet sauce, containing what almost tastes like hints of liqueur. This is a great dish if you are here to eat, drink, and be merry.
-Soba Noodles: Cold, bland, whole wheat noodles. Not for me, but some people really like it.
-Hosomaki Combo: This is a good deal, given the prices at the restaurant. You get a tiny but delicious cucumber salad, complete with sliced radish, golden raisins, seaweed, and toasted soy-nuts. I literally drink the vinaigrette when I'm done. You also get the miso soup (did I mention this place is ALL-VEGAN!) Then you get to pick three sushi roles. I recommend the following roles, in increasing adventurousness:
*Kappa: Just cucumber, pretty plain.
*Avocado: Classic vegan option done right.
*Kampyo: Sounds weird but it's shavings of a gourd originally grown in Osaka. It actually just tastes like a really yummy soft, sweet, paste.
*Shitake: A cold sliced mushroom role, meaty tasting, toothsome. Lots of "umami" flavor.
*Seaweed salad: May take some getting used to if you aren't familiar with the oceanic flavor-profile. (Good source of iodine.)
*Oshinko: A salty, bitter Japanese pickled radish.
*Natto: I didn't order this until recently when a vegan friend of mine from Japan recommended it. It's a slimy fermented soybean mixture with raw green onion. It grows on you if you like strong flavors.
-Ice-cream Sundae: Fantastic scout of vegan ice-cream covered in green tea sauce and red bean sauce. There's a side of pineapples that seems like it is from a can. It always boggles my mind that they had soaked, sweet, possibly canned pineapple chunks when the rest of the entire menu is so fresh, but they are actually a good compliment to the sundae. It's easily my favorite vegan ice-cream dish, period.
-Fried bananas: To compliment the Sundae if you are sharing.
If i were stranded on a desert island and had to choose one restaurant's food to eat every meal for the rest of my life, Cha Ya would be high on my short list. We've eaten there hundreds of times over the years and never tire of it.
First off, the most important thing to know in order to experience the best of Cha Ya is this: Order the strange stuff - the unfamiliar items. The quite substantial menu includes many typical Japanese dishes that one would find anywhere, but these are not Cha Ya's specialty.
The genius of Cha Ya is in its highly inventive and masterful renditions of the Shojin Ryori vegetarian cuisine the Zen Buddhist tradition. Cha Ya serves Zen temple food at its finest, with some creative innovations of the chef (with creative innovation itself being part of the Shojin Ryori tradition).
The daily specials board, which includes both photos and descriptions of an ever-changing selection of unique dishes, is a great place to start.
From the standard menu, consider the Cha Ya roll, Hangetsu, and the Shattuck roll. They make an excellent dressing for their sea vegetable salad, too.
By the standards of Japanese restaurants, Cha Ya is quite reasonably priced, and best of all due to the salubrious nature of the food one can have a feast without crashing into a food coma afterward. (We should know - we've overeaten there more often than we'd care to admit and lived to tell the story.)
Thankfully, it's now much easier to get a table there since they expanded by acquiring the space next-door.
Note that at lunchtime they accept only cash. There's meter parking out front, but one can often find free parking on the street around the corner (try going west on Virginia street for half a block or so).
Updated from previous review on Sunday July 18, 2010
Something I really appreciate about this food is it's sincere honesty. There is no room for lies in most Japanese Food, as what you see is what you get! No hidden weird ingredients disguised into the dishes, which is quite nice if you are conscious of what you put in your body and are on the lookout for sugar, corn syrup, MSG, flours, refined starches, weird food additives, ect...
I came here after 2 days of non-stop traveling, eating some questionable snacks along the way, and I was just craving simple, healthy, straightforward, nourishing food, something a bit on the detoxifying side... and that is what I found here.
We had the Soba Noodle Salad, which I was pleased to find gluten-free (no wheat in the soba, just 100%% buckwheat). All the vegetables were arranged in an orderly way in their own little colorful sections all piled up on delicately dressed noodles.
We also had the Cha-Ya signature dish, a similar-looking plate, but this time piled on a bed of "seasoned" brown rice. It again was simple yet delicious and satisfying. We also had one Vegan Roll, which I have not much to say about...not bad and not outrageously good.
I really liked the meal overall, the honesty, simplicity and healthiness....and the beautiful presentations.
One thing that could be improved upon is some more flavor though....it does have a tendency to be a tad bland, and the food sure could benefit from a bit of sauces! (I am imagining a nut-butter based spicy thick sauce to drizzle over my rice and veggies!...Ahhh.... in my dreams, restaurants care as much about sauces as I do!)
The food at Cha-Ya is fresh, healthy and a kickback for my living in japan days.
Service is good, food is good, prices are alright.
Will say it's got some pretty healthy items, which can mean not as exciting in terms of flavor, but their are definitely some good menu items. Personally a fan of the nabe, but I think that's from all my times eating nabe in Japan.
Food was soggy and boring. I've been vegan for 40 years and my asian food is above and beyond this. What a diapointment.We won't be going back
The Japanese curry was delicious. Japanese curry is very thick, like gravy, and it comes with croquet (breaded fried veg patty), vegetables, and brown or white rice. The special comes with a small cucumber/seaweed salad with sweet rice vinegar dressing. I also had the fried banana dessert, breaded & fried with a little syrup sprinked on top, also delicious! Small, quiet place, rather plain looking, good food and friendly service.
My friend and I stopped at this Cha-ya during our trek to Cinnaholic in Berkeley. I had the
senroppon salad for starters and was impressed with the flavors as well as the veggies, it was quite good. I had the curry udon, also quite tasty and full of flavor, for my entree. Overall, this was a good experience, however I will note that I did not have a good experience during a later visit to their SF location.
I stopped in on a visit to Berkley. At 5:30 the place was empty. It was small and clean with a large vegan menu. The waitress was nice and quick, but not particularly warm and chatty. I got the vegetable tempura. The portion was good, but it wasn't very flavorful. I would try them again, but would try other places first.
There are so many dishes to choose from! I always end up ordering the special...it's always great.
I had read about this place on happycow, and here's my Cha-Ya Berkeley location review.
Was here on a past trip to San Francisco & the Bay Area. My husband and I came during dinner hour, and it was packed. We waited a short while for our table. The space is very small with limited seating. There are a few tables plus sushi bar seating.
The food is reasonably priced and very delicious, authentic vegetarian Japanese food (all vegan suitable). I enjoyed the Cha-Ya rolls and the soba noodle soup.
We ate here during a recent trip to Berkeley. It isn't fancy, but the food was quite good, portions were large and prices were reasonable. Service was also good. We would go back.
The Berkeley Cha-Ya is much smaller than the one in the City, but the food is just as good. The staff here seems to be more friendly as well - although I have only been to the location in the city once so I may have been there on an off night. There are lots of things to chose from on the menu. See my review for their location in the city for more information.
I took my picky-picky, lactose-intolerant, egg-hating, vegetarian daughter here for lunch on a Saturday. There was no wait, the service was friendly and efficient, and the food was creative and delicious. (I am soooo sick of the substandard veg food served at many low-cost veg or semi-veg restaurants.) The prices were very reasonable for this quality of Japanese food.
The food at Cha-Ya was superior to that served by most non-veg Japanese restaurants that I ate at prior to becoming veg a couple of years ago. There were no simulated meat dishes (yea!) We had the cold soba, tempura veggies, miso soup, sushi, and the Happy Moon dessert. It was all delicious; even my daughter loved everything.
The whole meal cost $30., including drinks, tax, and a generous tip. It is possible to have a very satisfying lunch for less than $10. (if you're not a 6 1/2 foot tall athlete who prefers quantity over quality).
We will return to Cha-Ya in the future, with friends and family in tow.
wow- I have had everything on the menu & LOVED every single thing. Must get the goma ae, any of their special sushi rolls (Shattuck, Vegan, Cha Ya, etc), soba salad, & the specials posted on the wall.
my only beefs: the wait staff can be rude & this one sushi chef (who is a really sweet guy!) wears the grossest violent & sexist shirts! and be prepared to wait if you come durign prime dining time!
I appreciate the large, all-vegan menu at Cha-ya, but was not thoroughly impressed with the food. My kitsune noodle soup was a bit too salty and didn't stand out in any way. The tempura didn't taste right and the miso soup seemed more like a veggie soup than anything else. My chocolate mousse cake was dry.
Prices at Cha-ya are good, and the space is quaint and inviting. But the food was only decent and nothing special. The service was wonky and curt and all of our dishes came out at random times. I appreciate any all-veg restaurant, but this one has some room to improve.
this place is ridiculous--all vegan japanese food. sometimes i dream about it....
where to start--you will have trouble deciding because everything sounds and IS amazing...but the gyoza are so good, the miso soup rocks, of course the sushi is delicious, and i can't remember what it is called but it is a soup noodle veggie dish that is amazing. top it all off with some warm chocolate cake (if they have it) which is like amazingness in your mouth.
staff are really friendly. prices are reasonable for how delicious it all is. just be prepared--the place is small, so you might have to wait!
but it really doesn't matter because this place was fantastic. went with 2 others and we all ordered quite a few things off the menu, and everything was fantastic! I have only been once and been meaning to go ever since. the only thing that has put me off- very small with limited seating and there is ALWAYS a wait. Aside from that, highly recommend this place...no one will be disappointed.
This is my favorite restaurant in Berkeley! The salads are beautiful and delicious!! We've tried every appetizer on the menu and they all are amazing - the curries are delicious too. I always have the spinach with sesame dressing salad! Many people rave about the sushi rolls, but I never have room for them. The desserts are also great. For dining out, the place is really inexpensive for the quality of the food you get!
this is japanese food heaven. inventive, fresh, wonderful dishes. I first found this place 6 years ago, and even though I live in NYC now, everytime I'm in the bay area I must make a pilgrimage. You must love japanese food or at least be open to it to dig this place.
Delicious food! A bit pricey, yes, but worth the money. Seating is limited, but the wait is not outrageous. They do a good job moving the line... I don't think the portions are too small. I always take food home with me and never have had room for dessert.
I was up in Berkeley this week and i had to try this place out. The food was really good, their miso soup (in my opinion) was killer. I cant believe no one else has mentioned how small the portions are for the price , i mean i wasnt expecting 5lbs of food , but the soup i finished in like 2 slurps, same with my entree.
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Last updated: 2014/09/20
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