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Cha-Ya

  • Vegan Vegan
    ( 35 reviews )
Contact 510-981-1213
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1686 Shattuck Ave (at Francisco between Cedar & University), Berkeley, California, USA, 94709

Among the more popular vegetarian restaurants in Berkeley. Affordable all vegan menu offers a wide variety of options from sushi rolls, soups, salads, rice bowls, noodles, combination sets, to desserts. Small & cozy, busy on weekends. Note: sugar maybe not vegan, ask. No credit cards accepted but they do have an atm. Open Mon-Thu 12:00pm-2:30pm, Mon-Thu 5:30pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sun 12:00pm-3:00pm, Fri-Sat 5:00pm-10:00pm, Sun 5:00pm-9:30pm.

Category: Vegan, Japanese

Reviews (35)

First Review by spidey

Healthy, Filling, and Delicious - Edit

Stopped here on a road trip to NorCal. This place is affordable, casual, healthy, and delicious! My dining partner and I split the seaweed sushi, which I wish I ordered more of. I would love to try the different sushi variations next time. We also ordered two noodle soup bowls (one with the gyoza and one with just tofu, veggies, and yam noodles). Both broths were super flavorful. I love that they offer miracle and yam noodles!

Note: cash only.

Pros: Great Food, Affordable, Healthy Options

Cons: Cash only


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Limited gluten free selection - Edit

Perhaps we were limited by the gluten free menu, but the selection was uninspiring. The main menu was much more interesting. We had the miso soup, summer vegetable roll, garden roll, fava beans and seaweed salad. Dinner was fine.


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Delicious, fresh, don't miss - Edit

I am a great fan of the Cha-Ya restaurants (there is another one in San Francisco), they are in top 5 best vegan restaurants in the Bay Area for me.
The food is always great, delicious and fresh. Service is friendly and fast.

Go there for lunch as they have lunch set and lunch special for 12$. It is a bit pricey but they do use some organic produce and given the food quality I believe it's worth it.

They accept cash only.

I would recommend to try the sushi (full moon plate for example) and the noodle soups.



Updated from previous review on 2016-08-01

Pros: enough seating space, fresh & delicious

Cons: no parking, Cash only


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Tasty - Edit

My boyfriend wanted to visit this location as part of his birthday lunch.

We ordered the spring rolls, potsickers, and two main entrees that came with soup.

Unfortunatly I cannot remember the dish names but the appetizers and miso soup were better than the main course.

They were pretty dishes with a variety of veggies & herbs however it did lack in flavor as far as seasoning goes. We ended up leaving half of our meal there.

Appetizers were great though and the miso soup was perfect!

This location only accepts cash!

Pros: Miso soup , Appetizers

Cons: Expensive for the quality of food, Only accepts cash


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vegan Japanese - Edit

We came with a friend on Labor Day to have lunch. We were the first ones there, but the place quickly filled up, so come early. We ordered the Cha-Ya Roll to share and it's tempura sushi which was tasty! For entrees, our friend got the sushi lunch combination plate while we got the kinoko noodle soup and vegetable tempura zaru with soba noodles. We were all pleased with our meals and ordered the ice cream sundae for dessert as well. Overall, the food was good, but the service wasn't very attentive and it's a cash only restaurant, but it's definitely worth checking out if you are looking for all vegan Japanese.

Pros: vegan Japanese

Cons: cash only


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Yum but pricey. - Edit

I had one of the noodle dishes which was curried tofu soup I believe. I also had their Cha Ya sushi rolls. The soup was quite good, and even better the next day! However I was not impressed with the sushi roll especially for the price. I would definitely come again, I just would not get the sushi roll. I thought the portions were a little bit small too. Overall though I would come again, and I was very pleased to find a place with some healthy vegan options.

Pros: Yummy , Healthy

Cons: Pricey , Parking, Small Portions


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The cha-ya rolls are the best! - Edit

This place is AMAZING! The sauces are delicate and packed with flavor. Our only problem was that there were too many options to choose from and not enough time to eat. Our favorite was the Cha ya roll. Wow! The agedashi tofu was also great. We took the advice of another reviewer and put the fried banana on the ice cream sundae and it was so good. Portions were filling and we love how they weren't afraid to deep fry everything.

Pros: Friendly staff, Varied and interesting food, Good atmosphere


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Excellent place with delicious food! - Edit

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!!

Pros: Great variety on menu, presentation is beautiful/seems authentic , food is delicious

Cons: Cash only


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Excellent food and presentation - Edit

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)

Pros: great food, friendly staff, quiet atmosphere

Cons: cash only


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Great Sushi - Edit

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.

Pros: Delicious sushi, Good miso soup, Excellent service

Cons: Cash only


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my all time favorite restaurant - Edit

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.

Pros: sheer deliciousness, creativity of dishes

Cons: portions are kinda small


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Favorite Japanese Place - Edit

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...

DRINKS
-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.

APPETIZERS
-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.

SOUPS
-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.

OTHER ENTREES:
-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.

DESSERTS
-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.

Pros: best all-vegan Japanese restaurant, food is amazing, food is served beautifully (ceramics are a nice to

Cons: ambiance feels a little cheap for price of food an, food comes out at different times so you could wai, they get pretty crowded and need more waiters


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Creative Shojin Ryori cuisine at its best! - Edit

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

Pros: Exquisite, unique Zen cuisine, some organic ingredients, reasonably priced

Cons: Service can be slow and erratic, parking sometimes a challenge


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Honest and Simple - Edit

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!)

Pros: healthy, honest

Cons: bland, needs sauce


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Very healthy all vegan Japanese food! - Edit

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.


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