Former B-Dama chefs Asuka Uchida and Shin Okamoto held a soft opening for a new Japanese restaurant, Fish & Bird Sousaku Izakaya, or Fish & Bird, on Shattuck Avenue on Jan. 21.
According to general manager Yoshika Hedberg, Fish & Bird serves Japanese food with influences from other cultures and uses locally sourced ingredients. Closed on Mondays, the restaurant is open from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. for the rest of the week.
“Real Japanese food … is always evolving,” Hedberg said. “There’s traditional food, of course, but there’s also new influences that comes from all over — that’s something I think is really special.”
Hedberg added that some ingredients, such as bonito flakes, kelp and dashi broth, come from Japan because these “fundamental” ingredients give food their distinct Japanese flavor. She said these ingredients are not available from American sources and must be imported.
Although Hedberg had no prior restaurant managing experience, she opened the restaurant with the help of other restaurateurs, the city of Berkeley and the internet. One of her biggest challenges in opening Fish & Bird was securing its venue, as the owners wanted a place with an open kitchen so the customers can build a connection with the chefs preparing their meal.
“The decor is really nice and very inviting,” said Erin Garcia, a customer. “It’s a great group ambiance, but good for a romantic dinner as well — it seems good for everyone.”
Along with the decor, the restaurant includes a partially hand-built bar featuring a rosé that comes from a region of Japan near the home of Hedberg’s mother.
Bellea Murphy, another customer, followed chefs Uchida and Okamoto from their previous restaurant after missing their cooking. Murphy added that she can only say “positive” things after visiting the restaurant with her husband.
Murphy and Hedberg recommended the chawanmushi, an egg custard dish.
“Chawanmushi is probably one of my favorite things,” Hedberg said. “It’s difficult to get the consistency and flavor together and Asuka does a really good job with that.”
Fish & Bird also features freshly made ice cream, warm hand towels and a microgreens station that holds herbs such as shiso and amaranth.
Hedberg added that the chefs are what make Fish & Bird “special” because they both understand Japanese flavor profiles and have the training and determination to create new dishes.
“Their depth of knowledge, their dedication and their commitment makes the food really good,” Hedberg said. “But, because they’re so dedicated, they also want to create. And that’s what we do here … (we) have that fundamental, but also on top of that, we have the creative elements so that it is interesting food for them to make as well as for people to eat.”