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Ippuku: Offal on a stick and Chicken Tartare

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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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Fatt Mink

Fatt Mink

I was born into a family of bookworms and staunch pinkos in downtown San Jose, California.
I lived in San Francisco from 2002-2016, during which time I studied music and Italian at S.F State and worked as a waiter and bartender in restaurants and bars both foul and divine; I credit my considerable experience in the industry with birthing my eternal burnin' love for food and booze, still a driving force in my life. I lived in Rome for 8 months in 2016 and then moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, where I currently write for a newspaper and play music.