The UK Observer’s monthly food section includes an article on sushi’s global takeover. The piece describes the origin of sushi — not as a luxury item, but as street food, and introduces Yohei Hanaya, “sushi’s Colonel Sanders,” who discovered quite a long time ago (approx. 600 AD) that a simple combination of fish, which was cheap and plentiful, could be combined with vinegared rice for a quick, easy snack. References to the Earl of Sandwich and McDonald’s founder Roy Kroc follow, which should tell you that this story is positioning sushi not as the expensive indulgence we’ve come to know it as, but as a convenience food poised to engulf the market.

(Image from the Wikipedia entry for sushi.)

The piece is largely about two restaurant chains, one high-end and one low-end. Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (Iron Chef Japan!) now has 15 of his elite Nobu restaurants. With the help of hip Hollywood, Matsuhisa coaxed sushi into the “fashion mainstream.” Yo! Sushi is a British chain that has seen incredible success and has labored to subscribe squeamish Britons to the idea that raw fish can be tasty. They’re looking to export their conveyer-belt innovations to the United States — which is no stranger to sushi boats, but Yo!’s fast-food stylings seem perfectly adapted to the American market.

The sushi revolution has far-reaching implications, not least of all to the already depleted oceans. As demand increases, providers will likely turn to increased farming, wider distribution, and alternatives to fresh fish. As the piece says, “real sushi will in the end be only for the rich. Street sushi will increasingly feature what the industry unappetisingly calls ‘seafood analogues’ – imitation fish.”

In a related story in the New York Post, Steve Cuozzo describes “New Yorkers’ growing frenzy for Japanese cuisine.” It’s a piece about the about-to-open Megu Midtown, a Japanese chain that already has an outpost in Tribeca. There’s no doubt that sushi is hot. Cuozzo points out that “since 2003, more than 1,000 new seats have come on line at Megu, Matsuri, Ono, En Japanese Brasserie, Nobu 57, Ninja and Morimoto.” (“Come on line?” Come on. Must everything be so Internetty? Then, of course, who’s throwing stones? I just called sushi “hot.”)

Megu is more Nobu than Yo!, with a meal averaging well over $100 — although the restaurant’s president, Hiro Noshida, notes that they’re looking to stabilize the experience at a “more accessible price point — $60 a head.”

Finally, an item applicable to you if you’re male and in a car accident — and if you’ve indulged in too much sushi: that spare tire might serve you well. In a not-surprising turn of events, the study shows (“for reasons that aren’t clear”), that if you’re a woman, a little bit of weight around the middle gets you nowhere.

Sushi’s Global Takeover 4 March,2006Bay Area Bites

  • Tana Butler

    I think they’re behind the times, in a huge way.

    You can’t continue to fly fish around the world, from mercury-toxic waters (for example). You can’t push and push and push a glamourous “oh you can’t get this LOCALLY” thing without consequences.

    Sushi in moderation, at best. We have it maybe two or three times a year. Then it’s gorgeous and rare and amazing.

    I do like to know where my food’s from. And I make the occasional exception for sushi. Because.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, I think the phrase “come on line” isn’t Internetty, but very old school manufacturing. Plants used to “come on line” when they opened… I think the phrase actually referred to production lines.


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