ALEMBIQUE APOTHECARY Alembique Apothecary, a store selling herbs and botanicals for the kitchen and for the body, is set to open at 901 Hearst Ave. (at the corner of Seventh Street), in mid-June. Owner Babak Nahid is remodeling a space on the first floor of one of the oldest buildings in Berkeley. He says customers will be able to create their own soaps and lotions, using ingredients like carrot-seed and sea buckhorn oils. “We purvey predominantly non-GMO, organic, local, wild-crafted/wild-harvested, food-grade and petrochemical-free products, including natural botanical, herbal and mineral ingredients for our bodies and our homes,” the store says on its website. Plans include offering a refill station, an organic blending bar, and a series of workshops at the shop.
LHASA KARNAK HERB CO. Lhasa Karnak Herb Co. has two stores in Berkeley and one of them has just moved one door down the street and taken over the former Body Time location at 1942 Shattuck Ave. Lhasa Karnak says it offers the “largest selection and the highest quality herbs, essential oils, and other natural products to be found anywhere.” They specialize in Western medicinal herbs and culinary spices, but also stock traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs. Its second store remains at 2482 Telegraph Ave.
COLLECTOR’S REALM Collector’s Realm at 2566 Telegraph, which sold adult videos and magazines, has closed. Realm has been facing closure for several years, according to sources.
DUMPLING EXPRESS Dumpling Express has opened at 2328 Bowditch St. (between Bancroft and Durant). (We tipped you about it in April.) Early reviews on Yelp are almost all positive, with compliments for the service, the food and the prices. Dominic T. writes: “The dumplings are wrapped right before your eyes and steamed immediately. Wait is only roughly 12 minutes! The dumplings were really soft and juicy.” And Siddhant P. writes: “Great place. Handmade dumplings in 10 minutes. You should try the kimchi pork or the signature soup dumpling. They just opened and the manager is really nice.”
BOTELLA REPUBLIC Downtown Berkeley wine bar Botella Republic has thrown open its doors after securing all the appropriate permits. It has already launched taco Tuesdays, serving pulled pork tacos accompanied by home-made sangria (or wine, of course). Owners Christopher Clarke and Lauren Brody-Clarke, a husband-and-wife team, are incorporating a wine shop into the wine bar, which is located at 2055 Center St. Read more about Botella in our March 14 Bites column.
NORIKONOKO As reported on Bites last week, Norikonoko, the much-loved gem of a Japanese restaurant, at 2556 Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley, is re-opening after it was shuttered by a fire in October 2013. Owner Noriko Taniguchi told the East Bay Express she’s aiming to open officially by the middle of June, but will be in soft-opening mode before then. Taniguchi serves home-style Japanese cooking in a tiny, cozy space that resembles a typical Japanese countryside inn, adorned with innumerable tiny treasures, like miniature tea sets and teensy origami cranes. The menu will continue to feature the restaurant’s most popular dishes, but be pared down as Taniguchi and her husband, Takumi, will run the restaurant as a two-person operation, reports the Express. Expect offerings such as ramen, udon, pork curry and onigiri (rice balls). About 90% of the new menu will be gluten-free. Read more about the restaurant and its history in Berkeleyside’s November 2012 interview with Taniguchi.
CUPCAKES IN BERKELEY Cupcakin’ Bake Shop at 2435 Durant Ave. in Berkeley, is open. Owner Lila Owens, a former caterer, sells a wide variety of cupcakes, including gluten-free, vegan and mini-cakes. All the baked goods are free of GMOs. Read more about Cupcakin’ on Berkeleyside Nosh.
TOMO’S CLOSED West Berkeley’s Tomo’s Japanese Cuisine, at 2026 San Pablo Ave., has closed after about a year in business. According to a woman who identified herself as a former server at the restaurant, owner Tomo Owada was “swallowed whole by variables he could not anticipate.” She posted on Yelp on April 23 that the restaurant had closed. Reviews from Yelpers ranged from “exceptionally homey and authentic Japanese” to “just OK sushi.” There’s a rumor that the owner may be opening a new restaurant in San Francisco, but we weren’t able to confirm it as of press time. Let us know if you hear anything. The restaurant’s website appears to have been shut down.
Shop Talk is our regular column in which we post updates on Berkeley businesses. If you’re a Berkeley business with news, or a Berkeleysider who has spotted a change in your neighborhood or on your travels, shoot us an email with the details. Read previous Shop Talk columns, and check out Bites for the latest East Bay restaurant news.