Kirala (written ki-ra-ra in kana) is currently regarded as Berkeley's best Japanese restaurant. Unlike others in the area, they specialize in robata cooking--on a grill. They also carry very fresh sushi and hard-to-find favorites like unajyu (served in a neat lacquer box). The interior is crowded and noisy during peak periods, with more seating at the sushi bar. There's also a sake bar in the back, serving over 20 varieties of Japanese sake. Zagat gave them high marks, and the place has become very popular very quickly. Parking's pretty good (especially for Berkeley), but there are serious lines at dinner. And the prices are a little higher than at other Japanese restaurants in the area. But...the food is superfresh, the grilled items we ordered were incredibly juicy and delicious, portions are substantial, and there are cool desserts like Japanese-style sweet potato pie. It's a splurge for people with my budget, but a worthy one--my officemate's friend Hiroko, an elderly Japanese lady, says it's the only place she'll eat Japanese food in the entire Bay Area.

2100 Ward Street, but it's really on Shattuck Avenue, next to Any Mountain, where the grids collide by Berkeley Bowl.

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