Sushi Blues | Food News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Sushi Blues 

Side Dishes: Japanese chefs cope with crisis on multiple levels

The fisheries along Japan’s northern coasts were devastated by the March 8 earthquake and tsunami. Combined with the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, the disaster has affected Vermont’s Japanese eateries on personal, business and culinary levels.

At the Old Town Farm Inn in Chester, chef Michiko Yoshida-Hunter can’t always get in touch with family in her hometown of Tome, 55 miles north of Sendai, near the quake’s epicenter. But they are OK for now, she says, and their 140-year-old restaurant, ToKai-Tei, appears to be still standing. “I’m relieved, but still worry about the nuclear situation,” she says.

At home in Chester, Yoshida-Hunter and her husband, Aleks Hunter, are facing another worry: a noticeable lag in business. It could be seasonal, says Hunter, but customers who come in “definitely are asking about the food.”

Sushi-grade fish can come from various places, says Hunter — except for hamachi, or yellowtail, which originates from farms along the coast of the Sea of Japan. That’s on the other side of the island from the tsunami and nuclear crisis, and so far supplies haven’t been slowed or halted. “It is very high quality to begin with, and Japan is good about inspecting it,” Hunter says. Though the United States has stopped some Japanese food imports, for now it is simply scanning Japanese seafood for radiation contamination.

Even so, the Hunters are shifting their menu toward more local meats and cutting back on fish. “It’s to make life simpler and cuts down on costs,” says Hunter.

At Sakura Bana in Burlington, chef-proprietor Ron Takahashi is also gripped by the events in his native country. Takahashi is from Niigata Prefecture and says his family is safe, though he remains concerned about a sister who lives north of Tokyo. Spotty phone coverage prevents most conversations from going beyond moshi moshi, the standard Japanese greeting.

Sakura Bana donated one fifth of its March 29 sales to Japanese relief efforts. “People are missing. People are scared. We cannot control what happens, but we can support them. It is about the human heart,” says Takahashi.

The chef expects the prices of Japanese fish to go up and its availability to go down, but he emphasizes that he serves fish from all over, and his broad menu also encompasses meats and vegetables.

True World Foods, a global fish purveyor that sells fish to many restaurants in New England — including Sakura Bana — confirmed the statements from the Hunters and Takahashi: Sushi comes from all over, including New England waters. But everyone expects the supply of fish and other items from Japan to tighten as the nuclear crisis shakes out.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch

Bio:
Corin Hirsch was a Seven Days food writer from 2011 through 2016. She is the author of Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England, published by History Press in 2014.

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Food News

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2020 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401  |  Contact Us
Website powered by Foundation