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Monday, August 30, 2010

Heard the One About the Enviro Banned from the Sushi Joint?

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 11:45 AM

Except, no, we're not kidding. But as far as PR is concerned, the tale is laughably tragic.

As reported by various food bloggers this weekend, the president of the Wild Salmon Center says Sinju Restaurant in the Pearl banned him after he gently complained about the endangered bluefin tuna on their menu.

Guido Rahr, a longtime regular at the sushi place, said he noticed bluefin on the menu during lunch this summer and asked whether it was the okay kind—Pacific—or the about-to-vanish kind—Atlantic. He was told it was the latter, and he spoke up and then dropped by later with a packet of information.

"I said it really politely and more in the sense of, 'I'm a regular customer and I'm concerned. You really ought to think twice about doing this—especially in Portland where we take sustainability seriously,'" he told the Atlantic in an interview.

But when Rahr came back a month later, the owner upbraided him for raising the issue in front of customers and not with him directly, and then staff told him he was no longer welcome. Ironically, the restaurant sits across the street from Rahr's office, home to many other conservation groups.

To see the e-mail Rahr sent to Sinju's management, keep reading.

83501244478256bluefin-tuna-report-roberto.jpg
  • Via Advanced Tuna Ranching Technologies

Rahr told Slashfood.com he was stunned by the exchange and, he sent an e-mail in hopes of explaining himself. It's excerpted here, courtesy of Slashfood:


"I have been a regular customer of Sinju for years and the Wild Salmon Center has given Sinju quite a bit of business. So when I saw Atlantic Bluefin tuna on the menu, I felt it was important for Sinju to know that this is not just another declining species, but perhaps the most high profile endangered fish species on earth."

"I was surprised that Sinju's reaction to all this was not to stop selling bluefin, or to even politely disagree with a loyal customer, but to ban me from eating at Sinju."

The Atlantic's Barry Estabrook reached a Sinju manager, Mike Chen, by phone but was told to e-mail questions. As of this weekend, those questions had not been answered. And neither had Rahr's missive.

But both Slashfood and the Atlantic gave a plug to Bamboo Sushi, also local but celebrated for its sustainability. In Slashfood, Bamboo owner Kristofor Lofgren took a shot at Sinju—and environmentalists. He said Rahr and others should have minded the menu at Sinju much sooner.

"When you're the head of an environmental organization devoted to the preservation of one of the most important species economically and culturally to the Northwest," he told Slashfood, "and you eat at a place that doesn't serve wild salmon, that was surprising to me."

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