Keeping the Faith

    Kamakura’s octogenarian proprietor Akiko “Faith” Yamato was absent from the establishment for several months last year, recovering from her painful encounter with an SUV outside the restaurant; the food remained good, but knowing she had returned made it better.
    Anyone who has eaten at Kamakura knows you can’t do much better in the East Bay when you want to eat Japanese, whether you have the Western-style rolls, something exotic and recommended by the chef, or the sushi and sashimi that are the draw for many of us. These raw delights, strangely, have no appeal for my Francophile Japanese-American friend, born in an internment camp, who learned to cook Japanese food at her mother’s knee. If she deigns to come to a Japanese restaurant, one of the few things she will eat is tempura. “My mother made it often. Broccoli and prawns were two favorites. I love the light panko batter,” she enthused when I suggested Kamakura.
    She was amazed—and amused—to see the tongue-in-cheek range of rolls on the menu—the Governator (Cajun crayfish, spicy tuna, tomato and “hot steroid sauces,” $10.95), the Rock ’n’ Roll (with broiled unagi, $5.95) and the tributes to the Raiders (also with broiled unagi, $12.95) and the A’s (where the main ingredient is baked salmon, $7.95). The Tempura Deluxe (prawns and vegetables, $10.25) we shared as a starter one recent night—lo and behold—she deemed good!
    I was interested to learn, when researching this piece, that the concept of tempura—and the frying of food—was introduced to Japan by the Portuguese. Kamakura has perfected the technique and produces tempura that is light, crisp and delicious, especially when dipped in the tentsuyu it comes with. Then again, only those of little faith would expect anything less from Alameda’s beloved Faith.
    Kamakura Restaurant, 2549 Santa Clara Ave.; lunch 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., dinner 5 p.m.–10 p.m. daily, (510) 521-9121,
—By Wanda Hennig
—Photography by Paul Skrentny

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