2130 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94704. (510) 665-1969

[Note: This blog post is long overdue. Sorry for being MIA and thanks for being so patient. The new job is going well and I'm beginning to acclimate, so look for me to start back up with my blog posts.]

A few months ago, my friend Misa and I took a mini road trip to Berkeley to try an izakaya called Kiraku. We had a fantastic time and the food was terrific. We enjoyed it so much we made plans to return with our friend Miki and check out the other izakaya (Ippuku) in town which specializes in yakitori and compare. After dining at both, I felt the food was much stronger at Kiraku but the ambiance at Ippuku was more refined.

Ippuku, which means a small break in Japanese, is set up to be a social gathering spot where one can eat, drink and chat with friends. Just past the small front bar is a narrow dining area with low lighting, divided into intimate compartments to afford some privacy. Some of the compartments contain a booth while others consist of zashiki seating. In the back is a counter where you can sit and watch the chefs cook the yakitori over bincho-tan (white Japanese charcoal). The minimalist décor (clean lines, high ceilings and grey concrete walls accented with stylish salvaged wood) throughout the restaurant and the smell of the smoke from the yakitori grill brought back many fond memories for me of my time in Japan.  There's also a nice selection of beer, sake and an extensive shochu list to choose from. Oh, in case you're wondering- no, they don't serve teriyaki bowls or Dynamite rolls (or any other roll by some ridiculous name) doused in "special" sauce; they only serve yakitori and izakaya fare (Japanese pub food).

Service was a bit slow. Our dishes came out one at a time which would have been okay except there were a few dishes we weren't sharing and it was awkward to chomping away on your yakitori stick while your dinner companions are sitting there without food in front of them. Our waiter didn't seem very knowledgeable about the menu offerings and was quite vague in his descriptions of the dishes, but overall service was fine. I did, however, feel a bit rushed toward the end. Even if you have reservations, they want you in and out quickly because there's a long wait so I'm not sure how great this place would be for a date- you wouldn't be able to linger at all.

Here's an overview of some of the tasty dishes we ate:
Izakaya Dishes

Goma yogoshi: Fava beans and asparagus in a black sesame paste
- wow, the sesame paste was exquisite. I would have licked the bowl given the chance.

Kani Korokke : Crab Croquette- lacked flavor and wasn't crispy.

Chicken Karaage - piping hot and seasoned well.

My favorite- Shishamo : Grilled Smelt

Kogomi No Tempura : Fiddlehead Fern Tempura

Yakitori Dishes

Nankotsu: Chicken Breast Cartilage

Rebā: Chicken Liver- meh, not one of the better rebā dishes I've had.

Tsukune: Chicken Meatball

Sasami no Ume-Shiso: Chicken Breast with Shiso & Umeboshi Paste
Kurobuta Bara : Berkshire Pork Belly with Spicy Miso Sauce
- the miso was overly salty. Pffffaaah!


Sakura mochi - boring and had zero distinguishable flavor.

Matcha Tiramisu- delicious!
We ordered two and liked them so much we ordered one more.
If I return to Ippuku, there are a few other dishes on their menu I noticed and would like to try- their chicken tartare, squid ink fried rice and their bacon-wrapped mochi. Sound interesting, no?
Word of advice, don't come to Ippuku with a ravenous appetite, the izakaya dishes are small (think snack-size) and pricey. If you don't watch it, the cost can add up quickly. Also, if you decide to go, definitely make a reservation. Even on a Sunday night when we went, the restaurant was busy and carrying a lengthy wait time. According to their website, Ippuku currently offers the full yakitori menu Wednesdays through Sunday nights. On Mondays and Tuesdays, they offer a teuchi soba menu and limited yakitori options.
[PS While you're there, don't forget to check out the Japanese toilets (heated seats, flushing options and of course the cleansing and blow-drying of your nether regions). I love these and seriously wish I had one at my house. (Admit it- you do too!) ☺]
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