There's no denying that Kirala, a perennial Berkeley sushi favorite, has its share of mouthwatering offerings. But Kirala's upscale atmosphere -- not to mention its long lines -- are put to shame by the cozy ambience and down-home feel of tiny Norikonoko. Inside this one-room, wood-lined Japanese restaurant, it's easy to imagine you're perched on a cliff overlooking the storm-thrashed Sea of Japan while villagers cook up freshly caught fish in time-honored ways. Recipes here include lots of sesame, miso, and ginger, and each entrée comes with pickled vegetables. Or choose from the many Japanese tapas, including sun-dried calamari, steamed egg custard, and grilled wasabi chicken. Get yourself a window seat so you can peek out onto the avenue from behind rice-paper screens.
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