Walking into Daruma Sushi, customers are greeted by a cozy atmosphere and welcoming staff.
The restaurant, which held a soft opening May 22, replaced Temari, a sushi restaurant that closed nearly six years ago. Daruma is located at 2215 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley, between Allston and Bancroft Ways.
Angie Yang, the restaurant’s owner, noted the space has been a sushi restaurant for roughly the past 50 years but continuously changed ownership.
“The name of the restaurant is Daruma Sushi so we still prefer a more traditional style,” Yang said.
The restaurant takes on a traditional Japanese style with a samurai helmet and daruma positioned at the front of the shop. Both are originally from Japan, according to Yang.
A daruma is a traditional Japanese doll modeled after Bodhidharma, a fifth-century Buddhist monk.
“Daruma is for luck and Japanese people use it to pray for education, family, health (and) love,” Yang said.
Yang said she maintained the classical design of the restaurant from the previous owners with the aim of cultivating a creative and traditional atmosphere.
The two dining areas are split between a front and back room, according to Yang. She added the building’s owner wanted the restaurant to keep a “Japanese-style design” while upgrading the interior.
“It’s a really nice building, architecturally speaking,” said Marielena Rodas, a first-time customer and resident of the neighborhood. “It’s very cozy.”
The restaurant offers a variety of sushi, okonomiyaki, noodles and rice bowls and is open to customers from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Daruma plans to include more yakitori and sushi tacos as soon as their alcohol license is approved, as Yang said these dishes are best enjoyed with alcohol.
Out of the dishes she tried, Rodas said the dragon roll was her favorite. She also commended the variety of dishes on the menu, saying there is “something for everyone.”
As the restaurant is still in the beginning phases of opening, Yang is working to expand its staff.
While it has been difficult finding experienced sushi chefs after the pandemic, Yang said she has found young people who are eager to learn.
“I’m very glad to see more young people who want to come out to work,” Yang said. “They are working hard and they are very willing to learn new things.”
Neighbors who once attended Temari are thrilled about another sushi restaurant opening up in the area, according to Yang.
While lunch is still slow, residents of the area are showing up for dinner to try the new spot.
“When (the neighbors) saw the place reopened, they were very happy to try it out,” Yang said.
For UC Berkeley students looking to visit Daruma, it is a 20-minute bus ride from campus using the 51B or 36 lines.