Small Bites @ Ippuku, Berkeley

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Chicken Ramen @ Ippuku, Berkeley. The Ippuku ramen is very modest in flavor compared to the amazing tonkotsu-style ramen that exists in the South Bay. The Western palate will recognize this dish as chicken noodle soup, and for that reason, I don’t really place it in the pantheon of noteworthy Bay Area ramen. Still, I had to sample this dish on principle. In terms of a simple chicken noodle soup, it’s fine.

I’m not sure if the concept of the Japanese izakaya has reached critical mass here in the Bay Area, but I suspect the term itself is still unknown to most people, even among those who count themselves as gourmands.  Essentially, an izakaya is the Japanese version of a gastropub, and the menu will typically offer a wide array of small plates, as well as an impressive selection of sake and beer. In true izakaya style, much of the menu at Ippuku is devoted to yakitori (grilled skewers of meat, especially various chicken parts), although the menu does cover other options. I suppose Ippuku is the East Bay standard for izakaya at the moment, but for me, the best in the Bay Area is still probably Izakaya Sozai in San Francisco.

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Kurobuta Pork Belly @ Ippuku, Berkeley. In Japan, Berkeshire pork is known as kurobuta pork, so these skewers of pork belly represent some of the best heritage pork on the market. I meant to ask about the accompanying sauce, because I wasn’t able to decode it fully. If I had to guess, it may have been a miso-tamarind sauce. Either way, it was a delicious, slightly sweet counterpoint to the grilled pork.

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Karaage Chicken @ Ippuku, Berkeley. I was a little disappointed that this fried chicken didn’t arrive with some sort of mayonnaise for dipping, as is often the case. Still, it was perfectly prepared, and the squeeze of lemon was mostly sufficient.

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Chicken “Oysters” @ Ippuku, Berkeley. If you’ve ever broken down whole chickens, then you may be familiar with the prized “oyster” meat, which is tucked neatly alongside the bird’s backbone. Novice hands will leave these morsels on the carcass. At Ippuku, the chicken oysters are wrapped in skin, and grilled to a crispy, delicious effect.

 

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