East Bay restaurant openings and closings in February

U:Dessert Story, Viridian, Kokoro Donburi, Arizmendi Emeryville and 14 other eateries opened this month; 12 spots closed.

Iyasare will start Tohoku-style sushi nights on Mondays and Tuesdays, starting in March. Photo: Iyasare Sushi Nights kic
Iyasare reopened Feb. 5 and has started rolling out new menu items. Beginning in March, the restaurant will host “Tohoku-style” sushi nights Mondays and Tuesdays. Photo: Iyasare

Berkeley

Open

ALBORZ Alborz and its flavorful Persian cuisine is not new to Berkeley, but it is new to the former Saturn Café space at the corner of Oxford Street and Allston Way. From 2005 through 2017, the Alborz group (with current locations in San Francisco and Walnut Creek) had a popular restaurant on Center Street in downtown Berkeley, in the spot now occupied by Easterly. This new Berkeley iteration feels more spacious but still cozy, with a warm, upscale vibe, full bar, pretty dining room and big windows for people watching. Seems like a good bet for dates, nicer lunches and dinners, and group dining. Alborz, 2175 Allston Way (at Oxford Street), Berkeley

Host Nasim welcomes guests to Alborz in Berkeley.
Alborz host Nasim welcomes guests to the restaurant’s new location in Berkeley. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

BBOX CAFE The robots are back. Bbox, the robot cafe in the lobby of the Berkeley Way building, has reopened after many month’s closure, and now features a menu of breakfast sandwiches and pastries to go with its Highwire Coffee drinks. Customers can order remotely, and then enter a code on a tablet mounted on the wall when they arrive at the cafe. In a move similar (and yet so different) to an old-fashioned Automat, the tablet then swivels to reveal the order, held in a cubby tucked behind the tablet. Bbox Café in the lobby of 2122 Berkeley Way (between Walnut Street and Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley. (This news was a late breaking addition, added after publication — Ed.)

HUI LAU SHAN Mango aficionados should check out this fruit-forward sweets experience inside the former Red Door Eats space. Hui Lau Shan, called “Hong Kong’s most famous dessert shop” by Eater LA, is known for its mango-dominant desserts (chewy balls, noodles) and snacks, as well as jelly, sago and icy drinks. The rapidly proliferating international chain first opened in Hong Kong in the 1960s, but today’s Hui Lau Shan properties feature a sleek, modern vibe. Hui Lau Shan, 2282 Fulton St. (between Bancroft Way and Kittredge Street), Berkeley

IYASARE Fourth Street Japanese standout Iyasare reopened Feb. 5, after an October fire shut the restaurant for nearly four months for mainly kitchen-based renovations. Chef Sho Kamio continues to impress with rich, rustic-yet-refined dishes inspired by his native Tohoku region, and most show-stopping fan-favorites remain. However, he and co-owner Monica Kamio have announced future additions to the menu as the restaurant regains its post-fire groove, as with the upcoming “Tohoko-style” sushi nights on Mondays and Tuesdays beginning in March. (This should please all those folks who visit Iyasare mistakenly expecting a sushi restaurant.) Iyasare, 1830 Fourth St. (between Hearst Avenue and Virginia Street), Berkeley


Korean-style hot dogs at Seoul Hotdog in Berkeley.
Korean-style hot dogs at Seoul Hotdog in Berkeley. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

SEOUL HOTDOG Gathering cheerful student crowds at the back of Northside’s Hearst Food Court complex is this fun, new Korean hotdog counter, serving a fast-casual menu of Korean-style dogs dipped and coated, corn-dog-style, in choices such as crispy potatoes, mozzarella or cheddar cheese, rice cake and squid ink batter. Hotdogs can then be customized with condiments such as sriracha mayo, sweet chili sauce or sugar. Drinks include lemonade and strawberry slushies. We’ll have more in an upcoming feature on Nosh. Seoul Hotdog, 2505 Hearst Ave. (near Euclid Avenue), Berkeley

SERENE Nosh contributor Cirrus Wood revealed the details of this new pop-up from Oakland chef Jonathan De La Torre, who has staged at Bay Area fine dining enclaves such as Commis, Quince and most recently Mourad. Expect a communal dining experience and flavors that skew North African — as Wood described, “California by way of Casablanca.” As the pop-up progresses, De La Torre hopes to explore all manner of interesting culinary crossroads, like how and where Italian and Eritrean cuisines intersect. The drink menu, designed by Ryan Haile of Oakland’s Parlour, includes low-ABV cocktails and other craft beverages. Serene dinners run twice monthly at the Hidden Café, with two seatings per event. Serene inside the Hidden Café, 1250 Addison St. (inside the Strawberry Creek Design Center), Berkeley

U :Dessert Story in Berkeley.
U:Dessert Story brings Korean, Thai and Japanese sweets to the corner of Shattuck and Hearst avenues in Berkeley. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

U:DESSERT STORY Yet more Asian desserts and drinks to satisfy Berkeley’s sweet tooth: This swanky new dessert café from owner Tammy Boonlieng and Steven Choi (Kitchen Story, Berkeley Social Club) has reanimated the elegant corner spot that briefly held Les Arceaux and, before that, Bistro Liaison for 16 years. Elaborate Korean, Thai and Japanese indulgences include various flavors of bingsoo (Korean shave ice), specialty toasts, crepe cakes, lava cakes, dangho (mochi balls) and warabimochi (a jelly-like mochi covered in sweet toasted soybean flour). Sips include organic cheese teas, matcha, herbal teas and coffee drinks. The interior invites lingering with greenery and other pretty decor touches, with seating available at a long, attractive bar as well as date-friendly café tables. U:Dessert Story, 1849 Shattuck Ave. (at Hearst Avenue), Berkeley

Closed

ALFONSO’S CAFÉ This tiny café and creperie at the fenced corner of San Pablo Avenue and Bancroft Way was a bright, homestyle spot for food for nearly nine years among the area’s more industrial shops. It appears the eatery, run by a father and son, has been closed since late last year, and we’re grateful to tipsters for the chance to mark its departure. (Its location was diagonally across from California Typewriter, another loss; even in Poet’s Corner, nothing gold can stay.) Alfonso’s Café was at 2309 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley.


LUSH GELATO [Update, June 15: New owner David Harrison contacted Nosh to clarify that Lush Gelato’s Epicurious Garden location remains open and will continue serving both Lush Gelato and Gelato Classico flavors.] Caffe Classico Sadly, it looks like Lush is licked, at least in the East Bay. Founded in 2009, the original Piedmont Avenue location of this heralded gelateria from Federico Murtagh closed quietly several weeks ago (see Oakland closings, below). The shop and production center on Polk Street in San Francisco quickly followed suit; though it is marked closed on Yelp, the gelateria’s one remaining shop in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood remains open for now. Details and signage are still pending, but thanks to a tipster, Nosh confirmed that North Berkeley’s Lush Gelato counter, located inside the Epicurious Garden, is now under new ownership, and has started serving Gelato Classico flavors as the Lush flavors are gradually transitioned out. The gelato counter is also now responsible for Cheesequakes purchases, as that dessert shop has been reduced to a simple refrigerator, and is no longer manned by a salesperson. Lots of changes in the dessert department. Nosh will report on further details as they emerge.

T Zone on Southside has closed.
For lease signs hang at the now-shuttered T Zone on Southside. Photo: Sarah Han

T ZONE BERKELEY One boba shop too many may have flooded the neighborhood around Telegraph Avenue, and from what we can gather, T Zone has quietly shuttered. The Berkeley shop, one of a northern California chain based in San Jose, is still marked open on Yelp, but the doors are locked and no one is home in the Zone. T Zone Berkeley was at 2328 Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley.

WANTED As previously mentioned in Bites, we were saddened to hear from a tipster that this halal eatery abruptly closed after less than a year in business. Wanted had potential when it first opened last April. It seemed a great fit for the neighborhood and is gone too soon. Wanted was at 1160 University Ave. in Berkeley.

Oakland

Open

Avocado toast, croissant and latte from The Broadway Coffee in Oakland.
The Broadway Coffee in Oakland brings coffee drinks and café eats to the Beaux Arts Oakland Bank of Savings building. Photo: The Broadway Coffee

THE BROADWAY COFFEE This tiny coffee stand provides a little nook of elegant, vintage appeal and Ritual Coffee drinks in a corner of the lobby of the Beaux Arts Oakland Bank of Savings building. The lobby café is located just off the 12th Street BART station, with only minimal seating nearby. The Broadway Coffee, 1212 Broadway (between 12th and 13th streets), Oakland

LINE 51 BREWING – THE TERMINAL Park your bus and stay a while at this vast new tasting room for Line 51 craft brews near Jackson Square, complete with an actual vintage AC Transit bus outfitted with bar taps. (Even with the bus inside the space, the tasting room holds almost 200 people.) In operation and locally available since 2012, Line 51 beers include Short Dog Pale Ale, 1852 Lager and Red Death IPA. Martha’s Taco Truck serves on-site food. Soft opening hours are posted on Twitter and Instagram, but the tasting room generally opens at 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and at noon on weekends. Families are welcome. Line 51 Brewing – The Terminal, 303 Castro St. (at Third Street), Oakland

NIBS Back in September, we reported that Alex’s Giant Burger had closed, and wondered what might be next for husband-and-wife owners Alex and Hannah Yook. The local restaurateurs are known mainly for former El Cerrito mainstay Nibs, an old-school, diner-style restaurant that was first established in 1949, and that the couple memorably helmed from 2000 until a fire closed operations in early 2012. (The former Nibs location at 10841 San Pablo Ave. has since reopened as H&J Restaurant, a familial extension of Inn Kensington, much to most El Cerrito locals’ approval.) In great news, Nibs itself has relaunched, this time in Oakland in the space left by Ivy Moon. Nosh looks forward to seeing how the homestyle breakfast menu compares to the old Nibs, and checking out the burger. (Note: Though the new sign may feature a rogue apostrophe, we’re keeping it off here in a nod to history.) Nibs Restaurant, 3112 Market St. (at 31st Street), Oakland

SHAWARMAJI The newest pop-up inside Forage Kitchen is Shawarmaji, helmed by Jordanian chef Mohammad Abutaha, formerly of Noosh in San Francisco, who began Shawarmaji with a sneak-preview stint at Reem’s. Abutaha’s chicken shawarma and falafel wraps appear compressed and rich, his shawarma fries loaded, and you can almost smell the toum’s garlic on his Instagram. Tomorrow night and possibly Saturdays indefinitely, the new pop-up hosts DJ Ahmed to spin some dabke to pair with that shawarma. Shawarmaji at Forage Kitchen, 478 25th St. (between Telegraph and Broadway), Oakland

Viridian Bar.
Craft cocktails at stylish Viridian Bar. Photo: Jeremy Chiu

VIRIDIAN Taking over Oakland’s former Plum Bar space is Viridian, from an energetic and talented team of area industry vets led by William Tsui and Raymond Gee. No wallflower, Viridian has blazed onto Oakland’s bar scene with vibrant color, art, craft cocktails, Asian-style bar snacks and desserts and plenty of buzz. Look for the exterior newly painted in the shimmery, blue-green hue of its name. Viridian, 2216 Broadway (between Franklin Street and Grand Avenue), Oakland

Closed

ANALOG Popular downtown Oakland sandwich shop dedicated to old-school technology closed on Feb. 1. Chef-owner Sean Asmar (of Benders in San Francisco), opened the shop in 2015, and although Analog served a menu for omnivores, it was best known and well-loved for its vegan sandwiches and vegan desserts. Analog was at 414 14th St.

BANHMI-NI Another surprise closure this month was chef Tu David Phu’s popular pop-up Banhmi-Ni, inside Oakland’s Copper Spoon, after barely four months. Just as the pop-up began serving pho along with his sandwiches, Phu pulled the plug. “As of February, 2020, we are now closed at the Copper Spoon location,” Phu wrote on his website. “Oakland, we love you!” Although Banhmi-Ni has moved on, host restaurant Copper Spoon at 4301 Broadway remains very much open.

CHINA HUT After 12 years on Broadway, China Hut has bowed out. The budget-friendly Chinese eatery was known as a serviceable spot for takeout and delivery. China Hut was at 4021 Broadway in Oakland.

CREAM Berkeley and Alameda still have their giant cookie ice cream sandwiches, but Oakland abruptly lost its location of CREAM this month. The shop, known for its substantial, customizable treats, first opened in Berkeley in 2010, and began expanding soon after to locales as far away as Florida. For all its ambitious sweetness, CREAM’S Oakland location, open since 2015, seems to have had some struggles for a while, with shifting hours and staffing problems, and left no note nor explanation when it closed without warning. CREAM was at 6300 College Ave. in Oakland.

Both Lush Gelato and Gelato Classico flavors are available at the Epicurious Garden kiosk during Lush's transition to a new owner.
Both Lush Gelato and Gelato Classico flavors are available at the Epicurious Garden kiosk during Lush’s transition to a new owner. Photo: Sarah Han

HERE’S HOW News broke Thursday of the surprising closure of notable Bay Area bartender Jennifer Colliau’s Here’s How, one of the most intriguing cocktail bars to hit Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood when it opened in the spring of last year. The issue seems to be a dispute with the residents of the building. A sign posted on the bar’s window presumably written by Colliau ends with, “Oakland I love you but you are breaking my heart.” Nosh has reached out to Colliau for more information and will report back as details emerge. Here’s How is at 1780 Telegraph Ave. Oakland. (This news was a late breaking addition, added after publication — Ed.)

LUSH GELATO PIEDMONT Springtime will be a little less sweet for dairy-based gelato fans as the original Lush Gelato on Piedmont Avenue closed several weeks ago. The good news is, the location is soon to become a Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery. See Berkeley closings, above, for more on 11-year-old Lush Gelato’s departure from the East Bay. Lush Gelato’s original Oakland shop was at 4184 Piedmont Ave.

Beyond

Open

The Sunday lunch crew at newly reopened Arizmendi Emeryville.
Members of the crew at reopened Arizmendi Emeryville. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

ARIZMENDI EMERYVILLE BAKERY & PIZZERIA After a long, long dormancy due to a car accident, fire and sprinkler damage and subsequent full remodel, Arizmendi Emeryville started serving pizza again on Valentine’s Day! Unsurprisingly, it sold out within hours. The beloved neighborhood pizzeria and bakery is getting back up to speed in its newly configured space (the sales counter and bakery shelves have switched places, and the whole place feels bigger and brighter), and has since added back its famed baked goods such as breads, scones and rustic pastries. Along with the usual two daily flavors — typically cheese and a vegetarian pizza of the day — Arizmendi Emeryville now serves vegan pizza, with limited-edition flavors sold by the whole pie only. Arizmendi Emeryville Bakery & Pizzeria, 4301 San Pablo Ave. (between 45th Street and Park Avenue), Emeryville

DONUT PETIT Alameda has a new donut shop in Donut Petit, which serves donuts that are, in fact, petit-er than usual, and come in flavors such as crème brûlée, fruity cereal and caramel apple crisp. Donut Petit, 711 Santa Clara Ave. (near Webster Street), Alameda

HAPPY LEMON This ubiquitous boba chain has opened in the former Baby Café Alameda space, and has made Alameda fans happy with its menu of juices, milk teas and salted cheese drinks. Happy Lemon, 2321 Santa Clara Ave. (between Park and Oak streets), Alameda

Unadon, grilled eel rice bowl, at Kokoro Donburi.
Unadon, grilled eel rice bowl, at Kokoro Donburi. Photo: Kokoro Donburi

KOKORO DONBURI A plethora of fast-casual choices seem to be opening in Alameda, including this nourishing new Japanese spot on Park Street featuring rice bowls, udon and curry. The counter eatery has plenty of seating and is outfitted in wood, tile and pretty murals. Kokoro Donburi also has a location in Pleasanton. Kokoro Donburi, 1518 Park St. (at Webb Avenue), Alameda

LADYFINGERS CAKES Old San Leandro has a new bakery in Ladyfingers Cakes, sister location to the Ladyfingers Bakery based in Oakland since the late 1970s. The bakery counter in the former Sweet Dee Cupcakes and Snow Ice space serves customizable and ready-made cakes as well as mousses, cupcakes, cookies and more, many sweetened with seasonal fruit. Ladyfingers Cakes, 109 Pelton Center Way (between Dolores and Juana avenues), San Leandro

TACOS SUPER MONILLA This super, new Mexico City-style taco truck owned by Ramon Torres and his family has caused quite a stir in Alameda since opening in December, with favorable reviews this month from both Eater and the East Bay Express. Parked outside the Bladium, the truck is open Saturday through Monday for tacos (including quesabirria on Sundays), burritos, tortas and much more. The truck may begin splitting its time between Alameda and Oakland; check Instagram for most updated hours and info. Tacos Super Monilla, 800 West Tower Ave. (near Ferry Point), Alameda

Closed

The Englander Pub in San Leandro was Nosh's top pick for best British pub in the East Bay. Video still: Max Brimelow
The Englander Pub closes on the last day of February. Last year, Nosh featured it as our top pick for best British pub in the East Bay.

THE ENGLANDER As reported in the San Leandro Times, today is the last day for this San Leandro sports pub, opened in 1997 by British native Jot Mangat. (Locals may remember when Mangat survived a shooting outside the pub ten years later.) In 2014, Mangat sold The Englander to owner-operators Cheryl Thies, her husband Rod Thies and her brother Roy Childress, who has been an Englander bartender since its opening day. (The trio fought to keep the pub open, but the building’s owner did not wish to renew the lease.) Cheerful and spacious, The Englander boasted a lengthy beer selection, menu of hearty pub fare, ample space for private events, and was a comfortable favorite for group gatherings, comedy nights and rowdy game days. As noted in the East Bay Times, 34 televisions across the walls showcased all manner of sports, a theme also reflected in the decor. Much of that memorabilia and other components of the bar will be sold at a farewell party held tomorrow, Feb. 29. Cheers, mates. The Englander was at 101 Parrott St. in San Leandro.

KOJA KITCHEN WALNUT CREEK Koja Kitchen, the Korean-inspired fast-food bowl, taco and salad eatery, has one fewer location this month as its three-year-old Walnut Creek location has shuttered. Koja Kitchen was at 1550 Olympic Blvd. in Walnut Creek.

Have a tip about an East Bay restaurant opening or closing? Feel free to leave it in the comments, or write Nosh directly at nosh@berkeleyside.com. Thank you!