Sunday, July 25, 2010

ippuku in downtown berkeley

    ayamurasaki imo shochu

    A few of you may have already seen a couple pictures on my Twitter from our trip to Ippuku, a Japanese izakaya that just opened in Berkeley this month right off BART downtown. Shochu is their specialty, accompanied by typical Japanese bar grub such as yakitori and other grilled delights. I actually had no idea that an izakaya was opening in the East Bay until Brent told me that one of his favorite customers at his wine store was one of the owners! I have to admit, we haven't been eating out at nicer restaurants lately since we've both been a bit busy.

    The space itself is something you have to see for yourself (although this blog has some fantastic behind-the-scenes photos from before the place opened), but the first thing you see is this right above the bar. Pretty impressive, right? It wasn't until after we talked to the bartender that we found out about the different variations of shochu that existed made from sweet potatoes (imo), barley (mugi), etc. and that Ippuku actually carried a couple bottles which are rare even in Japan! If you're adventurous and willing to try a different type of drink, come here. The staff is super helpful about explaining the types of shochu and specific bottles and we actually ended up trying (and getting drunk off) quite a few: one made from sweet potatoes called Ayamurasaki, two from barley, Sasayaki and Gokoo (the latter is actually aged in barrels for three years and has an oaky taste, if you're into that), an Awamori (long rice) one which I can't remember for the life of me, and finally, my personal favorite of the night, a drink made from black sugar (Kokuto) called Amami which was preeeeeeeeetty effing good. Before you think of us as total boozers, I must add that these drinks were spread out throughout the three hours that we were there. But anyway, now that that's out of the way, let's move on to the food.

    ban-ban-ji
    jidori gyoza

    Starters: chicken gyoza (Jidori Gyoza) and a Chinese-style chicken salad (Ban-Ban-Ji)

    kurobuta bara
    mune

    Next: pork belly skewers (Kurobuta Bara), chicken breast (Mune).

    negimatsukutama

    Then: chicken thigh with leek (Negima), minced chicken with egg yolk (Tsukutama).

    See those last skewers with the egg yolks? Those are actually the second and third ones we ordered of that plate since we liked the original one so much when it was brought out to us. When it arrived at our table, it was the only plate we had not ordered ourselves and contemplated saying something to the waitress; however, once we finally decided to keep it and took our respective first bites, we looked at each other at the same time and realized it was probably sneaked into our meal on purpose (touché!) and were thankful when we ended up ordering two more as our last bites of the night.

    meyer lemon chu-hai cocktails

    In addition to the shochu, I convinced Brent to order these chu-hai cocktails which came with their own citrus reamers and meyer lemon halves! At the time, I thought it deserved its own cheesy video (since I love anything that involves being hands-on with food) and ended up with this completely necessary bit. Hmph, it seemed like a good idea at the time...

    maccha sundae

    Finally, a maccha sundae of green tea soft serve topped with mochi, anko, and ten-kasu. I'd call it a perfect way to end the night but we were actually there much longer (with more drinks) talking to the chef's wife, Erin, who was a complete delight and amazing hostess. If you're reading this, thank you so much for your hospitality and wonderful service!

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ippuku in downtown berkeley


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