One of my favorite places to eat in London is a cheap and cheerful little sushi restaurant in the heart of the West End, just around the corner from Leicester Square.
If you are a tourist in London, you’ll almost certainly visit this area. It’s the centre for London’s theatre scene, and a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, Covent Garden with its funky boutiques, and the nightclubs of Soho.
If you find yourself in need of sustenance then Tokyo Diner, between Leicester Square and Chinatown, serves great sushi, sashimi and Japanese noodles at very reasonable prices. The vibe is simple with wooden furniture and few pretensions – check out the live webcam on the website if you like. The staff are extremely friendly and in keeping with Japanese tradition, do not accept tips. Any money “accidentally” left on the table will be returned or donated to a local charity.
The best thing about Tokyo Diner is the fact that they deliberately don’t serve tuna. Don’t get me wrong, I love tuna. But global over-fishing has brought tuna stocks almost to the point of collapse. The fish are hunted by airplane through the Pacific Ocean, while in the Mediterranean they are captured before breeding age and kept in fattening pens. Tuna fish are the cheetahs of the sea and like any predator, a natural eco-system doesn’t support them in great numbers. The species simply can’t keep up with our growing appetite.
The species most at risk is bluefin tuna and this has been disappearing off menus for some years now – London sushi chain Moshi Moshi is among the restaurants that has stopped serving bluefin. However, yellowfin tuna is also at risk – in fact, over-fishing is a serious risk for all tuna species, with the possible exception of skipjack. Another problem is that fishing methods, particularly longline fishing, have a significant by-catch. In other words, tuna fishing frequently means the death of large numbers of young tuna and other fish species, as well as endangered turtles, sharks, and marine mammals.
The best way to ensure sushi is sustainable is to avoid tuna altogether, as Tokyo Diner has done.
Not in London and not planning to visit? Well, there’s sustainable sushi in San Francisco and probably in your city too. In Japan they’re even serving venison as an alternative, which seems a little unorthodox to say the least.
Please share your sustainable sushi secrets for your city in the comments. And if this is something lacking in your city, then perhaps it’s time for a little lobby work – after all, all restaurants respond to public demand. Tokyo Diner is a case in point – it made its decision as a result of feedback from customers.