I’ve got High Hopes for Fish & Bird
It’s pretty neat to follow a restaurant on Instagram before they open. You get a glimpse into what it takes to open a restaurant and you get to know the people behind the restaurant. That is the feeling I had with Fish & Bird Sousaku Izakaya in Berkeley. I was pretty excited for the restaurant to launch for a number of reasons. I was seeing photos of simple and innovative food that the chefs were testing out. There was a photo of the dedicated chef hard at work refinishing the tables. The inside and outside of the restaurant was starting to look amazing with what I saw of the bar and the neon signage. I was also tapping into my emotions by following Fish & Bird. It was sad the day that they didn’t pass the fire inspection. But then I was happy to find out that an electrician was able to fix the issue and they passed the inspection the next day.
The other advantage of following Fish & Bird was that as soon as they announced their opening and a link to make a reservation, I made one for my first availability which was Day 3 of their soft opening. I made the reservation for two to sit at the chef’s counter, but it ended up being a community table with bar stools that sat eight people. In my opinion it was too tight and there was no place to put my jacket or my purse. My suggestion to you is to reserve a normal table. For the restaurant, my suggestion is to add some hooks under the tables and maybe seat for six.
While we were there, Berkeley Restaurant Week was happening so we had the option of a special menu. My friend and I decided to order some food from both menus.
We are both fans of chawanmushi, the savory steamed egg custard, so we each got one. The chawanmushi for the day had caviar, uni, and shrimp. It was delicious and delicate. It was a little pricey for the size, but the the ingredients probably warranted the cost.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we got to enjoy the sea bream as it was meant to be. It was served over rice and a pot of tea/dashi broth to pour over. The fish was fantastic, but the broth was lukewarm by the time we poured it over the fish. I would recommend for the waitstaff to inform the customer that they should eat that right away or make sure the pot is piping hot when it leaves the kitchen.
The seared duck with black vinegar sauce and quail egg was a beautifully presented dish. The texture on the meat was a little chewy and I would’ve preferred the fat on the duck to have been rendered a little longer. The addition of the egg was quite nice.
We shared the homemade soft tofu and was impressed. I loved the flavor that the soy sauce, ginger and scallion added. It was simple but special.
My favorite dish of the night was the zousui, Japanese version of rice porridge with vegetables and eggs. I’ve had my share of rice porridge from Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Thai cuisine, but never Japanese. It was very flavorful and comforting and something I could eat every day.
Dessert was their homemade ice cream which was hojicha tea flavored. The simple scoop of ice cream put a smile on my face. It reminded me how much I miss Ici ice cream. My favorite flavor was earl grey tea and I have fond memories.
I admit that I didn’t think everything that we ate at Fish & Bird was as good as it could be. I also acknowledge that I was there on Day 3 and they were still in the “soft opening” phase. I continue to get excited about Fish & Bird because there is a lot of soul behind the restaurant and I know the food will continue to get better.