From crispy fried crab appetizers, to buttery ramen noodles, to a surprisingly vintage decor, Katana-Ya, a traditional Japanese eatery located in a strip mall off San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito, offers an interesting dining experience to those looking for a tasty meal -- but just make sure to bring your patience.
One especially excellent dish is the Hot Tiger roll. The base of this roll is fresh crab and avocado wrapped with seaweed. This is topped with Hamachi, more avocado, tempura, sweet Japanese mayonnaise sauce, and finally Tobiko. The hot Tiger Roll is thick and filling, and works as a kind of Japanese comfort food. This is an item that is probably best shared with friends.
Another good choice at Katana-Ya is the Kani-Age, which is an appetizer of fried soft shell crab. This dish is served with a vinegar sauce, which complements the crab well. The crab is fried perfectly. It is not too oily, a common problem with fried seafood, and nor is it over seasoned. This allows the natural flavors of the crab to be expressed. The crab has a soft, creamy texture inside, and is a good choice for first timers to Katana-Ya looking for fried seafood.
And, of course, Katana-Ya Ramen Restaurant makes a good bowl of ramen. The EBI tempura ramen is rich and delicious, not unlike most of the food at Katana-Ya. It consists of noodles, spring onions, seaweed, corn, a giant tempura prawn, and a Japanese radish, served in a Miso broth. The servings are generous and should be enough to leave any hungry diner satisfied. The noodles are buttery, the Miso is delectable, and the prawn melts in your mouth.
For dessert, there is only one traditional Japanese item on the menu. This is the An-Mitsu, which is a combination of red beans, agar jelly (a gooey cube made from algae) canned peaches, and maraschino cherries. This can be served with or without vanilla ice cream. The contrast of the cool and sweet agar jellies, peaches, and maraschino cherries, with the savory red beans can seem odd to people raised eating western desserts, but give it a chance if you're feeling adventurous.
There is one thing diners should know before going into a meal at the ramen house. The service at Katana-Ya can be slow, especially during afternoon or evening rush. This is not a huge issue if you are having a leisurely dinner with friends, but it could be irritating if you were expecting to have a quick lunch and need to get back to work. Keeping that in mind, the food there is good, and if you are in the mood for Japanese and don't mind waiting Katana-Ya is a good choice.
Katana-Ya Ramen Japanese Restaurant
10544 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito
Tel. (510) 528-1678
Tuesday-Sunday Lunch: 11:30 am to 2:30 pm
Tuesday-Thursday Dinner: 5 pm to 9:30 pm
Friday-Saturday Dinner: 5 pm to 10 pm
Sunday Dinner: 5 pm to 9 pm
View their Yelp page here.