Sustainable sushi at Mayanoki
'Sustainability is a concept receiving increased attention in every industry, and food is no exception. The movement isn't perfect and making sustainable decisions often involves more nuance than headlines & brand marketing might suggest. Nevertheless, the rise in popularity of farm-to-table dining has been undeniable and it's clear the pressure is on, as even fast-casual chains have begun lauding minor transitions to more sustainable sourcing.
And yet, one cuisine which has remained somewhat aloof from the movement is sushi - particularly, high-end sushi. Overfishing is a well-documented problem, and several species of fish commonly used for sushi are already over-exploited. A second question to consider - where did your sushi come from? The vast majority of fish used for sushi is imported from Japan - meaning your carefully curated omakase may have traveled more than 6,000 miles to arrive on your plate.
Mayanoki is trying to change that. It's the first sushi restaurant in New York to be recognized by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch for sustainability and prides itself on working directly with fishermen to craft its constantly shifting menu of local fare.
Chef Jeffery Miller always begins the process of piecing together his menu by seeing what's locally available - a process which often requires him to work with fish (and other sea creatures) most sushi chefs wouldn't deign to consider. Mayanoki sources the vast majority of their fish from within the United States, with a focus on the east coast where possible. In place of bluefin, expect to see mussels, porgy, spanish mackerel and whatever else Chef Jeff managed to get his hands on for that evening.
The varied & unique ingredient list only serves to accentuate the skill of the preparation. Every piece of the 15-course omakase set was exceptional - slowly building in fullness of flavor throughout the meal. You'll leave the meal deeply satisfied, and curiously disappointed that it's over.
Outside of the food, even much of the wine & decor is sourced from New England (and largely New York) based distilleries and artists - many of which the owners are close friends with. And even better than the sushi & wine pairings, are the accompanying narratives about the origin of each piece.
Mayanoki's menu is an elegant testament to the fact that eating sustainably is not a compromise on quality or enjoyment - even in sushi. So hustle on down to this east village gem's tiny brick store front & pull up a seat at the bar for an incredible dining experience, and hopefully an educational one too.
P.S. If you're curious - some quick & easy reading to learn more about sustainability in sushi:
Quartz: "Barring a massive change in how we fish, there won't be any sushi left by 2048"
Monterey Bay Aquariam Seafood Watch: website & resources