Ippuku, Berkeley (first time)
we would have done well to do a little research before-hand (what was I thinking, not to have looked on chowhound???). the server, who was really sweet and attentive, was not as much help as we could have used, as we tried to navigate a menu that was pretty foreign (we asked her for help, explaining it was our first time, but weren't maybe communicating as well as we might have). we stumbled around a little and got some good stuff, some less so. and not maybe the best sequenced meal (always a challenge w/ small plates).
the place has a great ambience--hard to believe you're on center st. in berkeley. but the door was open, w/ just a curtain; and the temperatures were in the low 40's outside; and we were close to the front, though there were some kind of heaters in the booths (again, loved booth). (speaking of heat--i really loved--underscored-- the high-tech japanese toilet in the women's room w/ the heated seat!)
i mistakenly (again would have liked more help from the server) got an $18 big thing of sake just for me. the complimentary starter of cabbage and miso mayo was nice.
grilled squid was A+. potstickers--delicate, not heavy like pot-stickers can be, though probably not the most exciting choice. mandolined pear w/ wasabi was lovely--one of those unexpected and simple combos that are really pleasing--even pear-averse spouse ate and enjoyed a few pieces. a chicken skewer was nice, not brilliant (again, we weren't sure which skewers to get--I'm sure some are more interesting than other). got a creamy fish-y thing (can't remember what it was called), served tempura style (liked creamy texture, nicely fried-- needed a dipping sauce, which we tried to make w/ table condiments--soy sauce + ground pepper).
and for dessert, strauss frozen yogurt for dessert w/ a miso powder topping--which was...powder-y.
we will definitely go back!