Terracotta Red sees vibrant future for Everett

By M.L. Dehm Herald Business Journal

EVERETT — Terracotta Red Modern Bistro and Lounge has developed a loyal following since opening five years ago.

The family behind that venture now have ambitious plans to create a thriving restaurant scene around their business at 2820 Hewitt Ave.

They’ve convinced Seattle chef and restaurateur Jay Zeng to open a new restaurant next door.

Katana Sushi is scheduled for a soft opening around the Chinese New Year on Jan. 31. Terracotta Red owner Mu Ma will be a minority owner. It will be in one of four adjacent buildings that Ma owns.

The plan is to eventually develop all of the properties into businesses that could attract visitors to downtown.

“We see the direction of downtown Everett as heading in a sort of Eastside-style and that’s right up our alley,” said Allisa Hui, daughter-in-law of Ma and general manager of Terracotta Red. “There are a lot of business owners and property owners that would like to see the city propel itself in that direction and we feel that we can add to that scene.”

Hui believes the location of the family’s properties is ideal for a start. They are a short distance from Comcast Arena but not close enough to be severely impacted by parking issues. The transit center is nearby as is the Holiday Inn.

All of these elements also appealed to Zeng. A longtime friend of the Ma family, Zeng was approached with the idea of opening a restaurant in Everett even before Sojen Cellars closed the tasting rooms that once occupied the space.

Zeng liked the building and location so much that he moved to nearby Lake Stevens.

He plans to continue the same daily prepared and locally sourced products offered at his Seattle restaurant, J Sushi.

“Sushi is all about presentation,” Zeng said. “That’s what I really like about sushi. It’s how you present the food. If the blade is not sharp enough when you cut the fish, it will ruin the fish.”

The name of the new restaurant is a nod to the knife skills needed for good sushi. A katana is the traditional sword worn by a samurai.

Zeng has been wielding his knife skills in restaurants for more than 12 years. The menu will change every day based on what are the freshest products available.

Katana Sushi has a beer and wine license and still features the stage that used to host live music for Sojen Cellars. Zeng intends to offer live music and a comfortable atmosphere in which to spend an evening.

Next door to Katana Sushi is another building owned by the Ma family. Plans are to eventually open a spa in that space that will be run by Zeng’s fiance.

“We even envision an acupuncturist having a station there,” Hui said.

In the end building of the block, the family plans a restaurant called Noodle Nation, a no-nonsense place to sit on a bar stool for a fast noodle-based meal.

Diners would also have the option to get their noodles to go as an alternative to fast food.

Once Noodle Nation is established, the plan is to add food truck that could deploy to nearby parking lots.

Finally, the Ma family would like to get permission to create an urban garden with outdoor seating along the back of their buildings. It’s an ambitious series of plans that seem even more amazing when you know the history of patriarch Mu Ma.

An academic in his native China, Ma came to the United States to avoid persecution. When he got here, the only jobs he was offered were in restaurants. He worked hard and saved his money. Five years ago, Ma was able to open Terracotta Red for his family. Now the second generation is building on that investment.

“We’re dreaming but, hey, owning a restaurant was also a dream for my husband’s family,” Hui said. “So dreams can come true.”