It's no accident that one of the world sushi guru, the Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa, is publishing his first cookbook dedicated to vegetarian sushi (Nobu's Vegetarian Cookbook, that will be released on 7th February): all around the world the foodie community is reflecting about the important of fishy dishes not only mouth-wathering, but also respectful of the sea. And the finest restaurants will take up the challenge.
Often, the most ingenious inventions can come from the desire to provoke. Which is just what a German restaurant was doing when it substituted red tuna or salmon with venison from the Brandenburg forests, lightly seared and then covered with red ribs: not the usual nigiri, sure, but the preferred version created by an eccentric chef, famous for his sustainable sushi.
The name of the restaurant is Nekkko and it’s an itinerant eatery, where the dishes float over mini-rafts along a sort of canal dug into an elliptical table. Here the diners, seated around the table, enjoy their sushi in this marine-inspired atmosphere, while participating in a kind of artistic performance from the “post theatre” group who serve up “fish tales” along with the delicacies. Nekkko is based in Berlin, but tours around all of Europe, and its portable, fluctuating tables have given it the reputation of an eccentric catering company.
Sustainable sushi is not just a passing fad, but a necessity for those who love fish and Japanese cuisine, but also for those who serve it. This is why “ethical” sushi is becoming an ever-growing success around the world, especially in places where the origins of ingredients are subject to strict controls and regulations.
In London, for example, a small sushi restaurant, Soseki, opened a few months ago, which serves exclusively sustainably-sourced fish. The owner, Caroline Bennett, an expert in consumer awareness, looks for the best fish from small English villages, sourcing product all the way down from fishmongers in Cornwall. Renowned also as a production consultant for the documentary The end of the line, which effectively illustrates the consequences of global over-fishing, Bennett seeks to please palates and modern appetites while being careful not to acquire protected species. In order to preserve the Mediterranean eels, the unagi is made from dogfish. She also proposes seafood foie gras made from toad tail, a delicacy that doesn’t damage the environment or abuse the fish reserves.
It’s possible to eat great, high-quality sushi without harming the over-fished tuna. Since 2008, again, in London, the sushi bar chain Moshi Moshi,which means “Hello” in Japanese, has been famously offering its “Clear Conscience Set”, a sushi plate made from local ingredients exclusively from the Atlantic and the North Sea, seasonable vegetables and no tuna. Its awareness campaign, whose slogan is “Invest in Fish” says it all. And it wasMoshi Moshi that hosted a vegan sushi challenge, with the pariticipation of Heather Mills, which we told you about here.
On the other side of the ocean, on the San Francisco Bay, two Hong Kong chefs have opened Tataki, which serves dishes that represent marine biodiversity, with sushi chefs consulting with the writer and world-renowned marine wildlife expert, Casson Trenor, whose specialty is sustainable fishing. But the U.S. in general is becoming more aware of where their fish is coming from: in Portland, Bamboo Sushi claims to be the world’s most locally-sourced raw fish supplier, and their menus are completely certified, ingredient by ingredient.
For those who’d like to make sustainable sushi at home, a trip to Whole Foods is the best place to start: the supermarket chain indicates which of their fish is an at-risk species or not. Even the American wholesale supplierSysco, which distributes fish to over 400,000 stores and supermarkets, is working with the WWF in order to reach the goal of having only sustainable fish by 2015.
They’ve just launched an awareness campaign in conjunction with theInternational Seafood Sustainability Foundation. From the fishing boats to the table, whether prepared at home or ordered in a restaurant, sushi is even more delicious when it’s made with respect for the sea.
Photo courtesy soseki.co.uk