At the front of Ippuku, the cutting-edge yakitori in Berkeley, a long rack of upside-down shochu bottles dispenses scores of 50-proof barley, rice and sweet potato liquors that taste very much like 80-proof vodka.
Raised wooden booths outfitted with tatami mats, cushions and blessed sunken floors hidden beneath the tables take up the middle of this narrow space.
At the back, chef Christian Geideman presides over a small yakitori bar where he grills skewers precisely over a skinny charcoal grill. Japanese master builder Paul Discoe, who designed the restaurant, milled Berkeley street trees for the tables, and used woven bamboo shoot husks and rice paper for the lighting.
Geideman’s cooking is pure Japanese. No fusion here, though he turns to fine local products such as Gleason Ranch chicken from Bodega Bay for his skewers of skin, cartilage, gizzard, livers, thighs and not-to-miss sausage served with a raw egg yolk.
Start with chilled Japanese salads. Finish with grilled rice triangles scented with yuzu, and house-made pickles. And then have one of the best desserts in town, a green tea soft-serve sundae.
Location: 2130 Center St., Berkeley
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday
Contact: (510) 665-1969, www.ippukuberkeley.com