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.