Sushi Vendors In Calif. Brace For Safety Worries

Sushi restaurant owners, suppliers and customers near San Francisco talk about the impact of the nuclear crisis in Japan.

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RICHARD GONZALES: I'm Richard Gonzales in Oakland. For many people in this region, the word sushi is synonymous with Yoshi's. It's a Japanese restaurant and jazz club with venues here and in San Francisco. Sho Kamio is the executive chef for both restaurants. He also grew up in Sendai, where his parents survived the earthquake and tsunami.

Mr. SHO KAMIO (Executive Chef, Yoshi's): I'm really, really disappointed. I'm shocked still.

GONZALES: Kamio says as a result of the nuclear crisis, he's had a few customers ask about the safety of his fish supply. He tells them that 96 percent of the sushi he serves comes from fish drawn from domestic waters, the rest from the global market.

Mr. KAMIO: I'm pretty sure, 100 percent pretty sure, everything okay, fine.

GONZALES: Operators of sushi bars and restaurants around the Bay Area that once relied on the Japanese market also say they've gone to lengths to find other sources for fish. They've had no choice.

Michael Galyen is the general manager of Morimoto Napa.

Mr. MICHAEL GALYEN (General Manager, Morimoto Napa): The Japanese Prime Ministry has strict controls on all of the exported product going out of Japan right now, as well as the FDA has strict controls on this side of all imports coming in. And while we do source some fish from Japan, the fish we source is far from the site. So we feel very confident that what we're serving is completely safe.

(Soundbite of car engines)

GONZALES: Outside of another sushi bar, Mijori in Oakland, patrons said they aren't worried. Kayla Kirsh is a nonprofit consultant.

Ms. KAYLA KIRSH (Nonprofit Consultant): I have concerns about the radiation in Japan, but I don't have concerns about eating sushi in Oakland, California. Most of the fish is local, I assume, and not imported.

Ms. LORETTA ESKENAZI (Retired Painter): They had a long way to swim if they're in my supper tonight.

GONZALES: Loretta Eskenazi is a retired painter. She's just consumed a plate of tuna sashimi and a California roll. Eskenazi says she can't imagine any company skirting import controls to sell contaminated fish. It's just bad for business, she says.

Ms. ESKENAZI: You know, it's like nobody picks apples off the ground and sells those, and that's what they'll be.

GONZALES: Even so, an association of local Japanese restaurant owners is concerned that the nuclear crisis could keep customers away, so it's laying plans for a PR offensive, if it's needed, to assure consumers that their products are safe.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News, Oakland.

MONTAGNE: And you're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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