Q&A: Hajime Sato, Mashiko

 In a few days, Mashiko Japanese restaurant in Seattle is launching a revamped sushi menu, consisting of 100 percent sustainable seafood. The re-launch culminates years of research by the owner of the 15-year-old upscale eatery, Hajime Sato. A self-proclaimed "sushi whore," Sato talked to SeafoodSource about the benefits and challenges of serving only sustainable seafood.

Blank: Why are you now offering sushi made with only sustainable seafood?

Sato: The ocean is really strong. If we let it go for awhile, it will come back - even faster than you may think. For example, some of my customers have been eating hamachi for a long time and said, "If you are going to take it off the menu it is going to be so sad." I explained, "No, it is not sad. It is going to be here four or five years from now, and we will not have to be regulated."

What species are you removing from your menu?

We cannot have bluefin tuna, hamachi, eel, farmed salmon, and shrimp [farmed black tiger]. Those are the starting point.

What fish are you substituting for farmed salmon?

For salmon, I will be using two sources. One is farmed coho salmon from a company that has a [closed-containment] system and doesn't use any antibiotics. They are coming out in the public pretty soon. If the salmon is wild-caught, you have to deep-freeze it; you cannot catch it and eat it raw. Our distributor said they would deep-freeze it for us.

What other sustainable substitutes have you found?

Farm-raised hiramasa kingfish will replace hamachi. We are going to be using a wild, pink shrimp from the Gulf Coast. We can get it and freeze it, and don't have to worry about farm-raised from Southeast Asia. We replaced eel with catfish from Carolina Classic. They have a closed, sustainable system and don't use any antibiotics.

Is Mashiko seeking out seafood certified as sustainable by third-party organizations?

At this moment, I have to say what I think is good, and I have to have the research behind it. The things that are not harming the environment and are reducing bycatch, those are the things I will use. Also, there is fighting among sustainable groups [about which items are considered sustainable], so if they certify this and I don't agree with them, it is really tough.

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