What's a vegetarian or vegan to do in a Japanese restaurant? The scrumptiousness of Japanese cooking owes much to sea creatures. Even a soup is bound to have bonito flakes in it. And come on, one can only eat so many California rolls with fake crab. Vegetable-lovers, you can leave those fears of bland monotony and scant selection behind at Cha-Ya, located in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto. Cha-Ya's ingredients are partly organic, completely animal-free, and authentically home-style. (Yes, you will love fermented soybean and pickled daikon.) There is no such thing as picking a wrong dish at this little gem of a restaurant. Let us start with the rolls. Cha-Ya's got all of the requisite ones and more: asparagus, eggplant, cucumber, avocado, and the Futomaki -- its combination of tofu, cucumber, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, and kampyo
gourd renders the Futomaki impossible to fit entirely into your mouth. In addition to the usual veggie sushi fare, Cha-Ya also offers clay-pot concoctions, a wide array of curries, salads with tangy dressings and distinctive toppings, and udon and soba noodles floating amid seaweed, tofu, and fresh seasonal veggies. Be prepared to stand in line outside; its tiny dining area is part of Cha-Ya's charm.