Almost no one walks into a Pizzeria and says, “Tell the chef to surprise me.” And yet that’s exactly the spirit of “omakase”— asking the guy with the really sharp knife to give you a completely new experience with sushi. We all have our favorites, but the nature of sushi, whether it’s chef’s choice or a piece of mysterious nigiri drifting by on a conveyor belt, is to try new things. Often, that creation on a tiny rectangular plate is just too beautiful to pass up. As luck would have it, the culinary wonderland that is the East Bay offers an extraordinary range of experiences with Japanese cuisine, from the traditional sushi restaurant with authentic decor and service, to takeout rolls that are surprisingly great. With a range of styles and price in mind, here are our East Bay Best Sushi winners for 2023, selected by our editors — look for our readers’ choice winner, selected by our audience.
Feature Photo: Mujiri, @shamstah
East Bay Sushi Map
Delage is a prix fixe omakase (chef’s choice) only restaurant that focuses on incredibly creative takes on California-inspired Japanese fare. A typical meal is eight courses, including an amuse-bouche and salad at the start, dessert at the end and several courses of two- and four-piece sets of fresh nigiri and sushi in bamboo leaf sprinkled throughout. Also in the middle are courses of small plates such as Yasai veggies-stuffed dumplings in chili and shiso oil, and the Mini Chirashi Combination, two small bowls of fresh fish and vegetables over rice. Note: Some courses are vegan and/or dairy-free, but there aren’t vegan substitutions for the meat dishes. Open Wednesday through Sunday 5:30pm to 7:30pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday. delageoakland.com
Fish & Bird Sousaku Izakaya
Izakaya-style restaurant (small plates) that specializes in hot meat and seafood dishes, as well as tabletop grilling, but that pivoted during the pandemic to include more traditional sushi and bento boxes. The menu is a modern interpretation of Japanese cuisine that is “relevant in metropolitan Japan today,” according to the chefs. Among the highlights are the Kaki Fry, panko-crusted deep fried oysters served with ume shiso tartar sauce, and Chicken Karaage, deep-fried marinated chicken served with curry sansho salt. Open Monday, Thursday and Friday 5pm to 9pm, Saturday and Sunday 12pm to 3pm and 5pm to 9pm. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. fishbirdizakaya.com
Rustic, contemporary restaurant serving selections of excellent tempura, donburi, ramen and grilled dishes with creative twists, such as the Poppo Yaki, marinated and grilled Japanese whole squid with tempura tentacles. The menu includes a variety of maki rolls, including the usual suspects — dragon, spider and rainbow rolls — as well as the cryptically named Elvis Roll, with unagi, avocado, cucumber and unagi sauce. Nigiri and sashimi are available (depending on the season) either on small plates or as part of the chef’s-choice Daily Omakase. Open Monday through Thursday 12pm to 2:30pm and 5:30pm to 8pm, Friday 12pm to 2:30pm and 5:30pm to 8:30pm, Saturday 11:30am to 2:30pm and 5:30pm to 8:30pm, and Sunday 11:30am to 5pm. iyasare-berkeley.com
This no-frills hole-in-the-wall sushi joint with outdoor dining specializes in customizable seven-piece nigiri boxes for just $25 and 16-piece sashimi boxes for just $35. And the more expensive options such as toro (bluefin fatty tuna), iwana (Atlantic char) and hamachi (yellowfin tuna) don’t cost extra, although the Baja uni is $5 extra, but is still a bargain. There also are plenty of a la carte maki and nigiri options on the menu as well as an impressive selection of Japanese beer and sake. Open Tuesday through Sunday 11:30am to 2:30pm and 5:30pm to 9pm. Closed Monday. mujiri-oakland.com
If you’re in the mood for high-quality sushi, but don’t need the elaborate Japanese decor, the rustic earthenware platters or a seat with a view of the chefs, then Nori Roll is the place. This family owned pick-up-only place in an El Cerrito strip mall specializes in generous portions of fresh sashimi, nigiri and maki for surprisingly low prices. Most rolls range from about $6 to $12, including the Baked Philly, Deep-Fried California and Angry Bird, with the most expensive Golden Gate Roll topping out at $13. All of the 8-piece sashimi orders are under $15. There are a few frills, including the Baked Mussels and the Salmon Skin Salad, but mostly it’s about fast, affordable sushi to enjoy at home. Open Tuesday through Sunday 11am to 2:30pm and 4pm to 9pm. Closed Monday. noriroll.net
Small, modern restaurant with a good reputation for reasonably priced sushi that’s authentic and fresh. The straightforward menu includes two omakase (chef’s choice) options as well as sashimi and nigiri a la carte, a couple of teriyaki dishes, shrimp or vegetable tempura, a pork tonkatsu and barbecued eel over rice. Open Monday through Friday 11am to 1pm and 5pm to 8:30pm, and Saturday 5pm to 8:30pm Saturday. Closed Sunday. uzenrestaurant.com
More Local Favorites in the East Bay
Who’s writing these?
Meet our always-hungry team of foodies who compiled this list.
Please let us know if we’ve missed your favorite email@example.com.