Last night I was invited to the opening of the new Sushi Maki on Miami Avenue and 10th Street. I was very curious to see why, in our recession, this sushi restaurant could be so successful. While other business and restaurants in our community are closing, Abe Ng keeps opening and opening and opening...
You can find Sushi Maki partnering all over the community. They are in Whole Foods, in both Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports and they are not afraid to partner with unlikely restaurants from different cultures like this joint venture with Dolores Lolita, a Spanish restaurant (they even share the kitchen).
While I was at the opening, I realized Abe had all the key ingredients for success. His entire family was there, his minister was there to bless the restaurant and the food, community leaders were there to support him, his commitment to a healthy eating lifestyle was echoed by his outreach to Miami Children's Hosptial, and he stayed true to his roots and heritage by inviting traditional Chinese (yes, Abe is Chinese-American not Japenese) lion dancers and drummers to perform on the street for us.
Whenever I am photographing, I usually like to look at people who are behind the scenes. I saw this man beaming with excitement and pride behind a nearby palm. I thought he was one of their happy friendly chefs, but no, later I was introduced... Meet Abe's father, Alan Ng, proprietor of Canton Chinese Restaurants.
After the sushi roll cutting, the lions arrived! I learned from this little girl how to feed the lions (giving red envelopes filled with luck money to the dancers as a way to give back). Lions in the Chinese tradition bear little resemblance to actual lions. At first I thought they were dragons. But because lions are not native to china, ancient Chinese did not know what they actually looked like. They could only imagine what they looked like from travelers' descriptions. Chinese artists drew from their imaginations to form these beautiful creatures. In China, the lion signifies good luck, happiness, courage and strength.
All and all it was a fabulous Wednesday night downtown. So, the secrets to Sushi Maki's success are very simple and basic; just have fabulous food, great friendly service, don't be afraid to partner with people from other cultures, reach out to the community, make every one feel like family, have faith to see opportunity in a depressed economy and never forget to feed the lion.