Miya's Sushi in New Haven, CT, has been our favorite restaurant for years, and for good reason. Miya's is a home away from home that produces award winning fusion sushi that places heaven on your tongue, while being the forefront of social and environmental sustainability. We aided in developing a strategy to go towards the world's most sustainable sushi restaurant. This led to the invention of the invasive species menu, a concept that has inspired the world, and launched Miya's as an exemplary sustainable restaurant in the USA.
Miya's sushi is ran by the inspired and talented Chef Bun Lai. Bun asked us, how can we become the world's most sustainable sushi restaurant? As a small, local, family owned restaurant that seems like a large ambition, but this project shows this is possible, and the subsequent success speaks for itself.
Chef Bun Lai in his restaurant Miya's, in New Haven, Connecticut, USA
In the process of investigating the impact of Miya's Sushi, we analyzed the impact of its building, operations, and menu choices. The fish present on any sushi restaurant's menu represents by far the largest impact. In our strategy development, we asked the question, what if we would turn this negative impact into a positive one? If we just remove fish from the menu, what kind of sushi place would we have? Isn't there a way we can do more good, instead of just reducing the bad?
First, we analyzed the impact of different fish types, and suggested alternate menus on lower impact.
Eating bivalves, other animals that are lower on the marine food chain, herbivorous fish like catfish, tilapia and carp is a better approach to eating seafood.
Based on this, we developed an infographic based menu, to inform visitors and the community, and let them participate in the conversation. The menu shows several important aspects of the entire fish life cycle that are hard to discover otherwise. It helps to sharpen the fish selection of Miya's, shows complete transparency to the customer, and is a fun map to explore. You can download the menu below.
The Miya's sushi sustainable fish menu
Going further, in scanning the system, we asked the question, is there seafood that is actually good for the environment to eat, instead of just less bad? We talked to nature conservation agencies, and their answer was: yes, there are. Invasive species are species that do not belong in the ecosystem and often have destructive effects. Based on lists of the conservation agencies about the locally present invasive species, we investigated which ones could be edible, that we could also catch, and that would benefit the ecosystems to consume. In conversations with local fisheries we found out that some of them are caught as 'bycatch' and usually thrown away.
Invasive Asian Carp, Chinese River Crabs, Japanese Knotweed, and Blue Catfish are part of the invasive species menu.
With this as a basis, Bun got to work. He experimented with the invasive species, and from this produced a new menu selection called the 'Invasive Species Menu'. This menu, featuring unusual but delicious invasive species, such as Lionfish and Chinese River Crabs became an important aspect of the restaurant.
Two of Miya's invasive species creations
This unusual innovation did not go unnoticed. Chef Bun is the sole recipient of the 2016 White House Champion of Change Award for Sustainable Seafood. Described by The New York Times as “the mad scientist of the sustainable sushi movement,” Bun Lai was subsequently featured in countless national and international media such as Time, National Geographic, Prevention, Food and Wine, Eating Well, Outside, Popular Mechanics, Vice, The New Yorker, and a range of international publications and television.
With the tireless energy and support of Bun, the sustainability aspects of Miya's kept growing, and for many years to come benefited the business, the planet, and its community. Now, 'invasive species' are still a hot trend in the sustainable food world, first set by Miya's, a small but influential restaurant in New Haven, Connecticut.
Please do stop by to taste the delicious invasive species!