by Laura Neilson
When you're a seven-table sushi restaurant—in San Francisco, a city overflowing with sushi joints—how do you stand apart from the others? San Francisco's Tataki Sushi and Sake Bar took this obvious challenge to task by being the country's first and only sustainable sushi restaurant. Co-owners Raymond Ho and Kin Lui, who opened Tataki earlier this year in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood, maintain that every item on its menu is caught in an environmentally sound manner.
To help them in their endeavor, Ho and Lui enlisted the expertise of seafood sustainability expert, Casson Trenor. According to Trenor, the five most popular sushi items in the United States—longline tuna, farmed salmon, farmed imported shrimp, farmed freshwater eel (unagi), and farmed Japanese amberjack (hamachi)—are all generally unsustainable. "Tataki is the only sushi restaurant in the U.S. to offer sustainable alternatives to all five,â he says
Instead of serving bluefin tuna (a fish that's both endangered and known for its high mercury levels), Tataki offers diners yellowfin and albacore tuna caught by handline, thereby avoiding the accidental capture of seabirds and turtles that often occurs with longline fishing. Other alternatives include Alaskan salmon and arctic char, which stand in for farmed Atlantic salmon (notorious for pollutants). In addition to sustainable seafood sources, local ingredients are also a key component on Tataki's menu. The "Golden State" roll, for example, is an all-out, all-local tribute to California, featuring spicy, suspension-farmed scallops and minced apple, layered with albacore tuna, avocado and 24k gold flakes.
Environmental considerations don't stop at the menu—the compact space is marked by thoughtful design details, from the sleek, polished bamboo tables (handcrafted by the owners themselves), to the plates and utensils fashioned from rapidly-renewable sources such as acacia wood.