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Two High-End Sushi Restaurants Respond to Accusations of Selling Mislabeled Fish

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Hamasaku and Sugarfish offer explanations to a new report

Katsuya, Los Angeles
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Late last week a story by The Hollywood Reporter shocked diners at some of Los Angeles’s most popular sushi restaurants, charging a handful of restaurants with potentially selling mislabeled fish to diners. Now two of those affected restaurants, Hamasaku and Sugarfish, have responded.

First, some context. The report used DNA sampling on snuck-out pieces of yellowtail, tuna, snapper, salmon, and halibut to determine their authenticity, then graded each restaurant (Hamasaku, Hide Sushi, Asanebo, Sugarfish, Jinpachi, Kiriko, Katsuya, and Sushi Sushi) on a percentage scale of accuracy. Hamasaku earned the highest results with only one mislabeled piece of fish, while others were not so lucky. In a statement sent to Eater, reps for Hamasaku say:

We go to great lengths to provide the best for our guests, and for nearly 20 years, our guests have trusted us. We are deeply dismayed to have discovered that the New Zealand Snapper we have been purchasing is actually Silver Seabream (also sourced from New Zealand and considered to be part of the snapper family). We have immediately rectified the misnomer, and are now sourcing Madai (Red Seabream or Japanese Snapper) from Japan, from another purveyor.

On the other end of the spectrum is Sugarfish, which sends along the following statement:

We are currently completing a response to article in The Hollywood Reporter, voicing our views on the topic. We were shocked to see SUGARFISH called out for any mislabeling. Simply stated, we disagree with the findings. At Sushi Nozawa Group (SUGARFISH, KazuNori, Nozawa Bar), we expect no issues on fish labeling because we care deeply about labeling, and believe we go above and beyond the rules on labeling to protect our guests, and honor the trust they place in us. More details to come.

It’s possible that The Hollywood Reporter will indeed offer an update to their story soon, or open their data to the restaurants in question. But — as is the case with Hamasaku, it seems — that may not stop seafood mislabeling from occurring. In fact, the entire industry (from restaurants to purveyors and distributors on down) is massively susceptible to mislabeling; it’s an issue already rampant across the world, and solutions can be difficult to come by.