Not all of the skewers were as masterfully cooked — the rubbery ox tongue ($8) came off the grill too late, the eringi mushrooms ($6) blackened before cooking all the way through, and the electric flavor of the shiso leaves rolled around chicken breast meat (ume-shiso maki, $8) was not to everyone's taste (okay, mine).

These were minor errors. Ippuku's big flaw is the service, which is undertrained. On both visits, items we ordered never made it into the computer, and the staff hadn't yet learned how to pass by a table and recognize when something was missing or needed to be cleared. A meal at Ippuku costs $40 or more, so they need to cultivate this kind of attention.

Everything but the feathers: (l to r) thigh, oyster muscle, breast, heart, and wing.
Lara Hata
Everything but the feathers: (l to r) thigh, oyster muscle, breast, heart, and wing.

Location Info

Map

Ippuku

2130 Center
Berkeley, CA 94703

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: South Berkeley

Details

Ippuku
2130 Center (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 510-665-1969, www.ippukuberkeley.com. 5-11 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Reservations available. Noise: quiet to moderate.

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The servers have downloaded a fair amount of information about the shochu list, and on both occasions, our server pointed out dishes I wouldn't otherwise have tried. And each new discovery — the exquisitely tender turnips braised with ground chicken ($9), the chicken neck — increased my respect for the variety and depth of flavors Geideman could eke out of chicken. It was due as much to the quality of the meat as it was to his skill. I ordered the chicken tartare with a raw quail egg yolk (tori yukke, $9) fearing slimy, metallic-smelling meat. None of that. The chef dipped the chicken breast in boiling water just long enough to rim the meat in white and tossed it with a little toasted chile oil, soy sauce, and chile paste; it tasted almost as meaty as if he'd roasted it for hours. And both meals ended with a soup, something to fill out our stomachs and send us on our way. The contents, whether innocuous ramen noodles or shredded chicken and rice (both $6), were immaterial. We barely noticed them, focused as we were on the broth, the color of saffron and so concentrated that its flavor lingered for minutes afterward. The broth was the chicken's final gift to the meal, and I sipped it with as much gratitude as greed.

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