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Ippuku - Izakaya in Berkeley

Opened a couple of days ago, 2130 Center St., right-hand space in the the new building where the movie theater used to be.

Some of the best Japanese food I've had. I especially liked the chicken knee cartilage and minced chicken yakitori and the agedashi tofu. Reasonable prices. Beautiful space.

They're supposed to be open until 11 but last night they ran out of food at 10.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/umamimar...

Not much on their Web site yet: http://www.ippukuberkeley.com/

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  1. Five guys next to me at the bar got this drink, the bartender gives you a tall glass with ice half full of shochu and you squeeze your own half grapefrult to fill it up:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/umamimar...

    5 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Thanks, I enjoyed looking at the photos (skip to the end to see the dishes of food). I especially liked seeing the sake taps. The fresh grapefruit half for a squeeze your own soju/shochu cocktail is common in the izakayas in the San Jose area. This is encouraging.

      Do you recall the per skewer price, e.g., $1.5, $2, $2.5?

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      Ippuku
      2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I think most were $4 for two skewers. There's also a 5-stick omakase for $10.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I went back again and the skewer prices had gone up significantly.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Sorry to hear that. The range I stated above is typical for the South Bay places. Sumika in Los Altos is the exception, charging $3 to $4.50 per skewer, but it is probably the best of the lot and has the highest rent. Oakland's Ozumo charges from $5 to $7 for a pair of skewers.

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            Sumika
            236 Central Plz, Los Altos, CA 94022

            Ozumo
            2251 Broadway Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Well they had gone up to $12. Which I think is OK. Can I say that I haven't been more excited about a place in Berkeley since the original Cesar opened? Can you sense a pattern here - superb sense of place, something only a dedicated and geeked out Gaijin could do well- plus a really great beverage list. Food ranged from middling to delicious, but looking forward to trying everything on the menu. YUM.

          1. We just came back from there. The food is certainly not cheap, but everything we had was high quality and well flavored. I'd say about 1/3 of the menu was $7 or over. The space is lovely, in a rustic Japanese way.

            Oh, plus the woman's room has a high-tech Japanese toilet.

            3 Replies
            1. re: PegS

              You'll need to check out Ozumo to offer a comparison of the robata and high tech ladies room.

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              Ozumo
              2251 Broadway Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                How does this place compare relative to Kirala?

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                Kirala Restaurant
                2100 Ward St, Berkeley, CA 94705

                1. re: D Hound

                  We had dinner at Ippuku today. An enjoyable experience. We had: whole squid; chicken skin; pork belly; beef tongue; chicken livers; shishito peppers; mochi w bacon; eggplant with bonito flakes. Most dishes were quite good. The only weak one imho was the eggplant one. A couple of dishes would have been nicer if a little bit crispier (in particular the chicken skin skewers). Overall enjoyable as I said. Extra thanks to Zen, our super nice waiter, who was very endearing. We will be back.

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                  Ippuku
                  2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

            2. We checked out Ippuku on Monday night. Not at all crowded. We sat on the no-shoes side of the room, tried a few of the Sochu cocktails, a dozen of the robata skewers and a few of the other items too. Everything was delicious. Agedashi tofu was nicely done. Nihama (chicken and green onion skewer) was both crispy and juicy. Bacon/mochi skewer was chewy/fatty/fabulous. Grilled squid was one large cephalopod, artfully sliced and reassembled on the plate. A small pitcher of dry sake, poured from a larger bottle was refreshing and perfect with the meal. The bare wood and slate decor created a nice atmosphere. The staff was as friendly as could be. Food came out in a steady, unhurried stream. At one point the whole place filled up with smoke from the grill but it soon cleared up as quickly as it had arrived. We ate and drank with abandon and ended up paying $50 per person. It was a bit of a splurge but we all loved it. Hard to find a down side here other than wanting to abandon all our other local favorites so we can hurry back to try more stuff. Natto, fried cartilage, raw chicken salad will have to wait for next time.

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              Ippuku
              2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

              2 Replies
              1. re: flavorenhancer

                Those last items you mention have me wanting to run there now. Raw chicken?! I've heard of medium rare... but raw? Awesome!

                1. re: flavorenhancer

                  My wife and I ate there once...earlier in its incarnation and felt there were hits and misses, but worth returning for another try.

                  Unfortunately, I have spent many an evening at izakayas in Tokyo when I lived there and, while prices may have gone up somewhat in the intervening few years, the bottom line is that izakayas are bar food with very little pretentiousness--and usually cheap. I mean...cheap such that college students visit there to stretch their yen. Given that sensibility, wadr to the fine folks at Ippuku, its hard for me to rationalize paying the chichi prices.

                  Yeah, it's MY issue I realize, and for the same reason I don't order paella or Spanish potato torta...I can make it as well at home rather than blow money at Barlata's.

                  Still, one fine day I shall return...if only for a good Asahi.

                2. We totally enjoyed our Saturday dinner. Love the decor, love the used skewer holder, have not seen them used in SF yet. Service was just right.
                  We had:
                  bitter melon tempura, grill shishito, grill abura age with natto filling,
                  chicken thigh oyster, grill shishamo, grill beef tongue, mini chicken ramen,
                  grill onigiri, spicy raw chicken, grill chicken heart, chicken sashimi,
                  chicken cartilage, green tea sundae.
                  Everything was very good except chicken sashime on the boring side.
                  Their grilling skill is very good. Meats were moist with just the right smoky and crunch exterior. Ramen's broth is so rich, no wonder is a "mini". Noodle is al dente. We left very very happy, finally something decent and comfortable.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: soyo

                    How does the pricing and food compare to Nombe in SF? I liked Nombe but thought it was too pricey for a casual izakaya.

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                    Nombe
                    2491 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    1. re: IanW

                      Ippuku is even more expansive than Nombe. Nombe's dishes are too complicated. We enjoy food in its real taste. Nombe works too hard to complicate a dish.

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                      Nombe
                      2491 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      Ippuku
                      2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                      1. re: soyo

                        I had only two or three dishes at Nombe so it is hard to judge but one of the dishes was a little fussy(I liked the beef hearts though). I will have to give this new place a shot if only to try their raw chicken dishes. It is nice to have a true Izakaya in the East Bay and relatively close to my house.

                        1. re: IanW

                          I went to Ippuku on Saturday with a group of about 15 Tokyo natives. What a great restaurant!

                          The grilled stuff was out of this world, particularly heart, knuckle and shiso maki. I agree with Soyo that the grilling technique was particularly awesome. Also had the raw chicken with wasabi sprouts, which I'd never seen outside of Japan. It was quite tasty, with a sashimi-like texture and a very clean flavor. Definitely not for the squeamish though. The goya tempura was also really well done, that's another one I'd not seen in the US. I had goya champuru in New York last month and was really bummed out at the crappy bitter melon they used, so this was a particular pleasure.

                          Prices were reasonable, between $5 and $12. It adds up, but that's kind of the way it works in this kind of place. Anyways, we went on to consume an ungodly quantity of shochu, including some varieties I'd never heard of - two shochus made from soba and one from carrots! The restaurant design and service were both terrific, and the location is a block from BART. Definitely a new favorite for Japanese food in the Bay.

                          I've not been to Nombe because of my dislike for the original Sozai but if it's in the same league as Ippuku I will eat my hat.

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                          Sozai Restaurant
                          1500 Irving Street, San Francisco, CA 94122

                          Nombe
                          2491 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          Ippuku
                          2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704