Bites: Iyasare reopens after fire; Matt Horn’s Kowbird pop-up; Alchemy Bottle Shop closed

Catch up on the latest East Bay food news and events.

Iyasare has been closed since Oct. 12, 2019 due to a kitchen fire; it reopens today. Photo: Kate Williams

HEALED AGAIN Monica and Sho Kamio, owners of Iyasare, contacted Nosh with some good news. Their Fourth Street Japanese restaurant reopens today. As you might remember, Iyasare closed mid-lunch service Oct. 12, when a fire broke out in the kitchen. It had been closed since to repair the damage but to do some renovations, as well. During the forced downtime, the Kamios also decided to spruce up their menu; along with Iyasare favorite dishes like ramen, kakiage and grilled meats, diners will see a few newcomers to the menu in the coming days.

An interesting side note: “Iyasare” means “be healed” in Japanese. According to KQED, at the time the Kamios opened Iyasare in 2013, they intended the name to be an homage to Sho Kamio’s native region, Tohoku, which two years earlier had experienced a major earthquake and tsunami. Now the name has a new meaning for the restaurant, as it launches back to business. Iyasare is open daily for lunch and dinner. Iyasare, 1830 Fourth St. (near Hearst Avenue), Berkeley

PLAYING CHICKEN Looks like East Bay BBQ fans will have to continue to patiently wait for the opening of Horn Barbecue. Oakland pitmaster Matt Horn’s highly anticipated barbecue restaurant, which will take over the corner space at Mandela Parkway formerly occupied by Brown Sugar Kitchen, is experiencing delays. If things go without a hitch, we’ll see an opening this spring. But in the meantime, diners can take solace this weekend in another Southern specialty from Horn — fried chicken. As first reported by Eater, Horn will be hosting a fried chicken sandwich pop-up this Saturday, from 1-3 p.m., at 1700 Center St. in West Oakland, to get folks excited about Kowbird, his other venture opening at Jack London food hall Oakland Assembly this summer.

According to Eater, the upcoming Kowbird kiosk will serve up four types of fried chicken sandwiches (classic buttermilk, smoked fried chicken, Korean-inspired and Nashville hot chicken), chicken wings and fried chicken by the piece, along with sides (like mac and cheese, collard greens, fries and even fried giblets) and Southern-style desserts.


At the Saturday pop-up, Horn will serve two of the four sandwiches — the classic buttermilk and hot chicken. Head on over to West Oakland to get a first taste, but be sure to let Horn know you’re coming by RSVPing via Kowbird’s Facebook event page.

Pretty little craft spirits sellers Alchemy Bottle Shop on Grand Avenue closed Dec. 22.
Pretty little craft spirits sellers Alchemy Bottle Shop on Grand Avenue closed Dec. 22. Photo: Alchemy Bottle Shop

MAGIC IS GONE, BUT PROOF REMAINS Our cocktail writer Ms. Barstool, aka Risa Nye, alerted us that Grand Avenue craft spirits seller Alchemy Bottle Shop has closed. Turns out the shop quietly called it quits after a final day of business on Dec. 22. In a message posted on Facebook on Dec. 9, Alchemy owners, married couple Tova Herman and Peter Mustacich wrote: “Making the decision to sell has been one of the most difficult we’ve ever faced. Alchemy was truly a labor of love, but since becoming parents our priorities have changed, and a work situation that doesn’t allow us the time or space to care for ourselves and our family in exactly the way we want to is no longer an option.”

Herman and Mustacich opened Alchemy in April 2014, where they offered high-quality bottles from mostly small, independent producers, along with tasting events and classes on cocktail craft. According to the post on Facebook, the couple has sold the business: “The good news is that we were extremely careful and selective in the way that we’ve chosen to pass on the business and we think you’ll be really excited for what’s coming next!”

Good news, indeed. The store will be the new home for Alkali Rye, a beverage-focused retail store from Jessica Moncada Konte and Kori Chen. You might remember Moncada Konte from Proof, the bottle shop she crowdfunded to open three years ago. Things didn’t go quite as planned for Proof when the space she leased ended up being sold to a developer, but from that journey Moncada Konte and Chen joined forces and came up with a new “matured” concept. In addition to being a bottle shop that sells craft spirits, natural wine and beer, Alkali Rye will host a “for here only” espresso bar and sell specialty coffee products and accessories. Moncada Konte is the daughter of Keba Konte, and both she and Chen have deep roots at Red Bay, so yes, expect Red Bay coffee to be served here. There will also be tea and teaware, which is no surprise, given that Chen also owns Piano Black Trade Co., an importer of organic matcha from Japan. Moncada Konte said they aim to open Alkali Rye in early spring. We’ll have more details in the near future, so stay tuned. Alkali Rye will be at 3256 Grand Ave. (between Lake Park Avenue and Mandana Boulevard), Oakland


Lila Owens will open Cupcakin’ Bake Shop at the former Virginia Bakery space this month. Photo: Sarah Han

CUPCAKIN’ IN THE MAKIN’ About a year and a half has passed since Nosh reported that Lila Owens, owner of Cupcakin’ Bake Shop, was bringing her gourmet cupcake business to the former Virginia Bakery on Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley. Since that time, Owens moved her original Durant Avenue location to Telegraph Avenue in Southside Berkeley and opened a stand at Swan’s Market in Old Oakland, but inquiring minds (aka Nosh readers) most want to know about what was happening at the late Berkeley legacy bakery, where the ovens have been cold since Virginia Bakery closed in April 2018. When we checked in last August, Owens said construction had begun and things were moving forward, and this week, she had more exciting news to share — an opening date. Owens says she aims to open Cupcakin’ on Feb. 26. In the meantime, Owens is considering whether to keep her other Berkeley location on Telegraph Avenue. The shop is currently up for sale and she told Nosh, she’s “exploring options.” Cupcakin’ Bake Shop will be at 1690 Shattuck Ave. (at Virginia Street), Berkeley

BANHMI-NI LEAVES COPPER SPOON BanhMi-Ni, Tu David Phu’s banh mi and chicken pho pop-up, announced via an email newsletter that it is no longer operating out of Copper Spoon in North Oakland. The chef provided no further details about the reason for leaving the restaurant or to where he might relocate the pop-up but urges fans to follow BanhMi-Ni on social media for updates.

FOR MANGO LOVERS Nosh reader Kevin Lo sent us a tip that a business called Hui Lau Shan is coming to former sandwich shop Red Door Eats. Although the Hong Kong-based dessert chain now has an international presence, Hui Lau Shan started as a Chinese herbal tea shop in the 1960s. It wasn’t until the ’80s that it transitioned to desserts, and since then, has become known for its sweet soups, custards, jellies and other fruit-based Hong Kong-style treats; its mango offerings are especially popular. Hui Lau Shan opened its first official U.S. franchise in Redmond, Wash., and now has two other locations in New York, with another in the works in Irvine in Southern California. The Berkeley location will open on Feb. 14. Hui Lau Shan will be at 2286 Fulton St. (between Bancroft Way and Kittredge Street), Berkeley

EVEN MORE ASIAN DESSERTS While we’re on the topic, we have a couple of updates on some new sweet spots serving Asian-inflected treats.

As we detailed in our recent story, Viridian is a new bar in Uptown Oakland that specializes in craft cocktails and Asian-inspired desserts. It opened Tuesday. Viridian, 2216 Broadway (near Grand Avenue), Oakland

Meanwhile, Berkeley is now home to a third location for U: Dessert Story, Steven Choi’s San Francisco eatery offering Japanese, Thai and Korean-style desserts. It opened today at 10 a.m. with two grand opening specials: buy-one-get-one-free on all drinks and $5 small bingsoo. Along with sweets, U: Dessert will serve some savory brunch foods, too. U :Dessert Story will be at 1849 Shattuck Ave. (near Hearst Avenue), Berkeley

And since last Saturday, Berkeley’s Teance started offering sweet and savory handcrafted pastries from La Chinoiserie, Joyce Tang’s Oakland-based pâtisserie with an Asian twist. Guests can purchase Tang’s baked goods, like green onion or Spam musubi croissants; corn cheese danish and strawberry matcha sugar morning bun. (You can also find La Chinoiserie treats on weekends at Coloso and Equator Coffee and Teas in Oakland.) Teance, 1036 Grayson St. (near San Pablo Avenue), Berkeley  

PLANETS ALIGN Three years ago, North Berkeley Indian restaurant Khana Peena closed its Solano Avenue location, to the disappointment of those in the neighborhood who enjoyed an alternative to higher-end Ajanta. Owner Deepak Aggarwal — who runs a few restaurants in Berkeley — transitioned the eatery to Main Street Pizza Bar, but a year later, decided to convert it into a second location of Venus, his popular downtown Berkeley breakfast spot. But last October, Aggarwal decided to pivot the space again, by bringing Khana Peena back to its old home.

Thanks to reader “Harold of Albany,” we learned that Venus on Solano has been open with its regular brunch menu in the day, when it also serves Indian buffet as Khana Peena. Then, in the evening, it transitions to Khana Peena’s full dinner menu. In an email to Nosh, Aggarwal explained that he kept hearing from customers who dearly missed Khana Peena’s menu. (It should be noted, there is another location of Khana Peena on College Avenue in Rockridge offering similar fare; it isn’t owned by Aggarwal, but it is “part of our family,” he said.) Venus brunch and Khana Peena buffet hours are 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Khana Peena dinner is offered from 5-9 p.m., Thursday through Sunday; 5-9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Venus/Khana Peena, 1889 Solano Ave. (near the Alameda), Berkeley 

A recent dinner offering at Eternal, the five-month-old vegan restaurant in Jack London Square — smoked tempeh polenta with pepper purée and wheat berries with smoked mushrooms.
A recent dinner offering at Eternal, the five-month-old vegan restaurant in Jack London Square — smoked tempeh polenta with pepper purée and wheat berries with smoked mushrooms. Photo: Eternal

FOREVER VEGAN Eternal, Josh Levine’s five-month-old vegan restaurant in Jack London Square has made some updates to its menu thanks to new chef Charles Sayre. According to Levine, Sayre has “elevated” Eternal’s savory brunch menu from its greasy vegan diner days at Donut Farm; he’s also added a new pub menu (think sausages and burgers) and a full dinner menu, offered Wednesday through Saturday. One more thing: Eternal now has beer, cider and kombucha on tap, along with wine. Eternal, 247 Fourth St. (at Alice Street), Oakland

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT We’re sad to hear that Wanted has closed after just nine months in business. The halal fast food joint in Berkeley at 1160 University Ave., formerly Crepes Ooh La La (née Crêpes A Go Go), had a unique Western-themed decor and offered both Middle Eastern and classic American sandwiches, salads and platters. (We were especially fond of its affordable shish tawouk wrap.) According to Nosh reader Felicity A., “Paper is up in the windows and it has not been open since the end of the year.”

Sarah Han is Nosh editor at Berkeleyside. Email: sarah@berkeleyside.com.