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Aug 7, 2009 07:56 AM

Sustainable sushi in Toronto

I am a huge fan but after reading an article on sushi in one of the magazines, I am devastated to hear how bad fishing practices are - especially now how we have a sushi restaurant on every block.

Is there a restaurant that serves sustainable sushi?

I usually go out for sushi once or twice a week but ever since reading the article, I haven't had any.


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  1. using this as a guide

    I asked the chef at Zen what kind of fish he uses. He does try to use some sustainable fish from what I understand (ther's a bit of a language barrier).

    8 Replies
    1. re: CoffeeAddict416


      Unfortunately most of my faves are on the caution list lol...go figure. I will try my best to have sustainable sushi or just go to my fave sushi places once a month instead of 4 times a month *sigh*

      1. re: TOchowgal

        No sustainable place in Toronto, you just have to be aware as a consumer of the different fishes' vulnerabilities. Try to obtain a copy of the seachoice pocket guide, that should help when you're on the go. If you do indeed care, always ask questions, sitting by the bar helps.

        1. re: aser

          It's so hard, though, because you're not only looking for specific fish, but also how and where they were caught/farmed... I almost feel like you have to present the list and ask what they have that's on it... Maybe one day, restaurants will provide this sort of information at the outset, without it seeming like prying or rudeness on the part of the customer.

          1. re: Full tummy

            sort of off topic, loblaws has started labeling their fresh fish with the country of origin, whether it is wild or farmed, and the method of capture. I think it's fantastic of them to do that.

            I haven't seen that in place anywhere else at the big supermarkets. With the fishmonger it should matter less as you should be communicating with them anyway.

            1. re: CoffeeAddict416

              That is great. Maybe they're going to put some more energy into quality at their fish counter... I'll take a look next time I'm in. I think they get fish deliveries twice a week, Tuesdays and Saturdays, but I'm not sure if it's the same in all locations. Best to check, for the freshest fish...

              1. re: Full tummy

                Yup it's not easy and it requires you to abstain from the pinnacle of sushi, bluefin.

                At the end of the day, it's a personal choice. I feel there's a double standard at play with a lot of people. People will be all hoighty toighty w/ factory farming but turn a blind eye to bluefin because they can't do without it. Selective sustainability at their conveniences...

                I won't lie, I eat bluefin, kept at a minimum, 2-3 times a year max.

          2. Sustainable sushi won't exist in Toronto until consumers demand it. At my fave sushi joint I simply asked chef if he would be willing to do a sustainable omakase and how much notice would he need. The answer was a resounding yes with a week's notice. If you have a fave place ask the chef.

            11 Replies
            1. re: Googs

              Other places will do this as well (I'm assuming you mean Omi); I know that Kaji did it for a friend with concerns. Unfortunately, most sushi chefs, especially Japanese ones trained in Japan, don't really care much about the sustainability angle. It's not really that black and white, but it isn't like we'll see bluefin disappear from Japanese restaurants until the species is entirely extinct. When it comes to pulling things out of the water, ecological damage and international law aren't exactly the first thing on the minds of the Japanese.

              I agree with other posters that, if you're looking for sustainable, you likely won't be getting the fish most people crave -- on the other hand, if you bring along your Seachoice pocket guide and are wary about what you eat, you can make these decisions yourself.

              Of course eating sustainable fish in a store serving non-sustainable product is a whole other story.

              1. re: Googs

                I usually eat sushi at Zen or Sushi Marché. Anyone have experience with these? Which one agreed to do it for you, Googs?

                1. re: Full tummy

                  Omi for Googs, most likely. I'm not sure if Zen will, but if you ask for an omakase of only sustainable fish (list fish you don't want, or just the fish you want), they will do it. You just have to call in advance. Marché, I don't know, I don't eat there as I don't find their sushi anywhere near decent anyways, so you'd have to check.

                  1. re: tjr

                    My point in not mentioning it was John Lee of Omi whom happily agreed is that this is a movement the consumer can create by appealing to *their* favourite chef. The point of omakase is trust so go to the one who instills that in you. The SeaChoice cards are great and I carry them, but I don't want to pick what I know I already like again and again. I want to develop a palate for the sustainable through adventures with a creative chef.

                    1. re: Googs

                      High end sushi is already a niche market in Toronto, tacking sustainability on top of that, you're left w/ a trickle. As harsh as it sounds, it's just not worth the work for a chef to source fish for a pet project like this. We just don't have the market for it.

                      Presently, if you want sustainability in Toronto, you'll have to do your homework. Unless you live in an extremely green city like SF, then you have this.


                      I wish it was different but that's the reality here.

                      1. re: aser

                        I managed to find a chef who considers it more that a "pet project". John Lee seemed pleased by the challenge. Add another thing I like about the man. He deserves all the success he gets.

                        It's up to the consumer to demand it or the supply tide will never turn. It's really quite unique in that, in a world that is slowly realizing the importance of eating local, we continue to have global demand for one country's seafood.

                        North America offers a bevy of delectable choices yet we're tied to the traditions of sushi by nothing more that it being traditional. It may as well be a religious organization it has so many constraints.

                        I look forward to all the new creations I'll be experiencing. That I'll feel good about eating it is mere icing.

                        1. re: Googs

                          There's nothing "traditional" about neta for the most part, even in Japan. Sure, it's mostly raw things from the sea, but even Kaji's sushi is non-traditional in many ways. Sushi restaurants here gravitate to what is popular to North Americans, whereas in Japan nearly anything that lives in water is fair game.

                          Sushi in Japan is hardly about sustainability. Local is less important than the big "names," but then again, Japan is a much smaller country than Canada.

                          While sustainability isn't a cause I personally champion (I'd be pretty hypocritical if I did, given all the non-sustainable things I eat), I must admit that this is a pretty good thing. It's too bad that most Torontonians aren't prepared to eat much more than salmon and tuna (that is, if you step away from their main preference -- shrimp tempura rolls or something). It might be good that tilapia is so sustainable, considering how many restaurants try to pass it off as tai. But... if eating sustainable sushi means no bluefin and switching to mango spicy mayo tilapia rolls... I'm not sure I could do it!

                          1. re: tjr

                            tjr, if it meant mango spicy mayo tilapia rolls I'd borrow chef's knife to slit my wrists.

                            1. re: Googs

                              As I suspected! Unfortunately, Sushi on Bloor patrons would double their orders!

                              1. re: tjr

                                There's really no hope for those SoB's.

                      2. re: Googs

                        Well, it's good to let people know where it is when they ask. Most sushi restaurants in the city don't even have a real sushi chef, let alone one competent enough to make the proper selections. Most of the better sushi restaurants will likely be able to accommodate a request like this, but even at them it might be more a matter of saying what fish you refuse to eat due to sustainability problems (it's probably a good idea to mention this -- otherwise they might just tell you to order à la carte).