By Tamara Anne Fowler | CNA Media Team
Daruma (duh-roo-muh): a hollow, round traditional Japanese doll.
Daruma dolls are seen as symbols of perseverance and good luck. When acquired, the figure’s eyes are both blank/ white. An owner will then select a goal or wish and paint in one of the figure’s two eyes to “keep an eye on it.” Once the desired goal is achieved the second eye is filled in.
Daruma is also the name of a local sushi restaurant. It moved recently from 42nd Avenue and Fremont Street to 1640 N.E. Killingsworth St. Owner Andy Diaz, originally a broadcast engineer at NYU Law School, had no food background when he opened it.
He had moved to Seattle in 1991, but returned to New York City in 1999. He didn’t stay long. He missed the West Coast and sought a more affordable city here. “I also wanted clean air and access to good food,” Andy beamed. “It’s wonderful here.”
One night, he fell asleep watching “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” The next morning, his real estate agent called to tell him Ristretto Roasters was moving. Andy thought, “That would be a great space for a sushi restaurant.”
Although he did not have much experience in sushi, he jumped right in. Andy has always cheered the underdog.
Daruma Sushi has been open for four years. With the move, Daruma went from a 20-seat restaurant to one that is more obliging and contains 40 seats. At the 42nd Avenue location, he would have to turn away parties of more than four or shut the restaurant to accommodate larger groups.
His staff is good at taking initiative and at being creative. He has given each member of his staff a Daruma doll. “To help them stay focused on their objective,” Andy explained.
His current chef, Devin Jacobson, came into his old location wanting to apply as a waitress. He looked at her resume and was impressed by her experience. Devin is in her late 20s and had been preparing sushi for 10 years.
Andy asked his original chef if Devin could be his assistant. Eventually, after the chef moved to Seattle, Devin was running the sushi board.
Andy soon learned that rice is the most important thing in the restaurant. If the rice is not right he cannot open that day. Undercooked or overcooked rice can ruin good fish.
It’s all trial by fire. He recently added cooked food. Andy would like the kitchen staff to continue to evolve, like his menu and the wishes on the Daruma doll.