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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Japanese, Groceries
Counter service

Daily 11:30am–6:00pm

Features Veg-friendly
Bar Beer
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx


Bethesda, MD
6931 Arlington Rd.
Bethesda, MD
(301) 654-8832
Daruma Japanese Market
A homey little place whose goods fill the homes of DC’s Japanese-Americans

You’ll have to jockey with Bethesda soccer moms in BMW SUVs for parking—you’ll find some next to the CVS and the dry cleaners—but you’ll probably have unassuming Daruma Japan Market to yourself. At first glance it’s just another ethnic market—small, slightly dingy, fluorescent lighting. You can amuse yourself browsing the shelves of Japanese groceries; there are some good frozen products in the freezer case, and a wide selection of soy sauces, rice vinegars, and sake. If the vegetables look a little wan, it’s probably because there’s little turnover, but there are plenty of condiments, candies, and other treats to spark your curiosity, such as an impressive collection of Pocky—those little dipped breadsticks with the sinfully-addictive snap (including dark-chocolate “Men’s Pocky”—we kid you not). There is also a Japanese video rental service (we’re talking VHS here), further confirming that Daruma caters to the real deal.

The hidden secret within this already well-hidden shop is the home-style Japanese food, available for eat-in or take-out. During the day, you’ll find fresh sushi in the large refrigerated case. The quality and pricing are good, but not great. Until 6pm, however, you can also order a variety of hot dishes. The friendly Japanese staff will help you choose from among the meals pictured on the laminated menu taped to the counter.

Gyudon, a stir-fry of paper-thin slices of beef with tendon served over sticky rice, is a surprisingly sweet dish balanced only partially by the slivers of bright-red pickled ginger on top. Standard bowls of decent ramen noodle soup and curry rice are also available. While perhaps less familiar to Americans who picture mostly sushi and empty wallets when they think of Japanese food, these simple dishes are prime comfort food for Japanese natives. Daruma doesn’t really reach past the limits of its relatively modest blueprint, nor does it try to. This food aims more at hot then haute.

The setting isn’t elegant; with just a few café tables that look almost abandoned near the front of the restaurant, this isn’t a place to linger. But this little shop is a winning reminder that even in Japan, most of the time cooking means a mom or a dad trying to get something filling onto the table for their kids when they get home from school.

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