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Ippuku: Offal on a stick and Chicken Tartare

Ippuku’s sake on tap

There was a time when we as a people lived in fear of eating under-cooked pork.  Casting my mind back to the early 80’s, when A-Ha’s “Take On Me” was annoyingly inescapable and dudes everywhere sported see-through mesh t-shirts, our mothers and fathers were unwitting violators of swine-flesh. Operating under the notion that under-cooked pork could kill they egregiously over-cooked it.  Restaurants too, perhaps knowing better but having to cater to popular anxiety, were forced to cook the divine swine to a chewy, grey finish.  These days, society’s fears have eased due to better standards of pig-tending and you can cook your chop medium rare without a qualm.

Not so with chicken.   Chicken farming is by-and-large still in the Dark Ages, which yields meat that you’d rather have cooked to the bone.  However, if you as a restaurant or average consumer can get your hands on quality fowl, there’s no reason why you need to be unduly worried about being reduced to a quivering, sweating, two-way human geyser after eating some less-than-cooked-through chicken.

And that’s where this article’s subject comes in: Ippuku, in Downtown Berkeley.  Ippuku is an Izakaya (a Japanese gastropub, basically) specializing in Yakitori (literally grilled chicken, but also generically referring to any variety of meat on a stick, cooked over special coals called Binchotan).  Their further specialization within that category is offal: liver, heart, gizzard, spleen, etc. However, the item that has partly led to Ippuku’s notoriety among adventuresome eaters, and from which most quail in fear, is the Chicken Tartare.  Raw fucking chicken, people.  Try it; it’s delicious, having a texture very similar to Tuna Tartare.

I came away from a fantastic repast at Ippuku with no symptoms more sinister than satiation and the sensation of having crossed a mysterious threshold beyond which would lay even stranger culinary aberrations (the peak for me so far is ox dick soup; it was a little grassy, in case you were wondering).

P.S.: Ippuku is now a destination for Soba (buckwheat noodles), which they serve during weekday lunches from 11am to 2pm. They also have a great selection of Shochu, a liquor distilled most often from rice, barley or potato (I recommend the less common sesame variety).

2130 Center St. @ Oxford St.

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Matt Fink - Fatt Mink

Matt Fink - Fatt Mink

I grew up in San Jose, only 50 minutes away from S.F. My dad, brother and I came up often to visit family and/or to fart around, and whenever the car came over the rise on Hwy. 101 just after Candlestick Park, I could hear an almost audible "Click" in my brain. The blinding, beautifully rolling blanket of diverse urbanity spread out before our speeding automobile, coupled with draughts of the clean, cool air conspired to instill in me a growing discontent with San Jose. Add access to hitherto unknown strata of music, booze and food culture, not to mention pet-deification and testicular-separators, and I couldn't be kept away for long. Even after ten years of residency, the sight of a glistening pair of moose-knuckles swinging down Market St. still makes my heart swell with pride.