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Ippuku feels like it was plucked out of a hip, secluded corner of Tokyo and dropped in downtown Berkeley. Unfinished wood booths with blue pillows line one concrete wall, with traditional kotatsu tables along the other. Color comes from rows of upside-down hanging shochu bottles. Ippuku offers nearly 50 varieties of the Japanese liquor, distilled from rice, barley, or potatoes, served on the rocks. Enjoy yours with one of the many small plates hailing from the charcoal grill. Bacon-wrapped mochi are already a cult hit, with the salty crisp bacon offsetting the chewy rice dough. Yakitori—grilled chicken—comes in many forms, including heart and gizzard. We tried the sasami ume: breast seared on the outside, rare on the inside. Yes, rare—and delicious. Vegetable plates, such as cucumber in vinaigrette, avocado sashimi, and raw cabbage, are accented with simple yet nuanced sauces. Dinner Mon–Sat.
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