Located in the Berkeley Marina, but without views of the Bay, is Hana Japan Steak House. The facility itself is in need of an update as the carpets are worn and look dirty with a crowded bar and dark, dingy interiors. With that said, it’s a very popular, casual, and reasonably priced eatery with the style of Benihana. The waitresses are lovely in their kimonos and the service Is friendly. The hibachi tables are located around the perimeter of the window-clad restaurant, two deep, each area seating 8 people with the grill in the center. There were two of us in our party, and we sat at a table with other couples. The hibachi menu averages approximately $23.98 a person (lobster is around $38) and includes miso soup, salad, a grilled shrimp appetizer, steamed or fried rice, grilled vegetables and your seafood or meat dish all prepared at the table to hoots and hollers. The hibachi chefs are entertaining., and of course, the best part of the evening. The table next to us had three young children who were enraptured with the fire and knives. They were giggling so much that it tickled our fancy too.
Although I didn’t order the sashimi starter, it looked delicious and the person next to me who had it said it was first rate. The vegetables included onions, Napa cabbage, zucchini, bean sprouts, carrots and the fried rice is made right at the table as well. Everything is very fresh with two sauces on the side- ginger soy and hot mustard. The portions are substantial and everyone asked for a box to go for their leftovers. Hana Japan has a full bar. Saki, beer, wine, and frou frou drinks like Blue Hawaiians, Chi Chi’s, and Pina Coladas are popular. Desserts are ordinary-pineapple boats, ice cream, or cake (they were out of the cake by 7pm). Ice cream flavors were mango, red bean, green tea, and vanilla. (Mango was delicious. I had red bean and have no idea still what it was.)
At the end of the meal, I asked each person to rate the restaurant. The votes ranged from 2.5 to 4. This is not a place to come for a quiet romantic dinner. It’s noisy, it’s crowded, and it’s VERY casual. It is a great place for families with children. If you want a private hibachi table, come with 8 friends otherwise plan on enjoying conversation with strangers, who may become new foodie friends.
TIPS: If it’s the week of your birthday, come with a party of four and you’ll meal will be free at lunch or dinner. If you want to see the gorgeous golden sunsets, have a drink and appetizer first at nearby Skates on the Bay which has the best views. Reservations are recommended.
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