Restaurants, Sushi and Japanese
Apr 21, 2016

Sustainable Sushi Popup Mayanoki Coming to RESOBOX in LIC

Mayanoki, a sushi popup dinner that serves only sustainably sourced fish, is coming to RESOBOX in LIC this spring.

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Photo credit: Mayanoki

There’s a sushi popup coming to LIC, serving only sustainably (and much of it locally) sourced fish. Named “Mayanoki,” the first dinner will take place on Sunday, May 22 at RESOBOX (41-26 27th Street), time TBD. There aren’t many places in NYC or the metro area to get this kind of fish for sushi, so we’re pretty excited to see something this interesting come to Queens.

Founded by David Torchiano and Josh Arak, Mayanoki has been operating out of Brooklyn Oenology for the past few years as a private supper club, and now it’s moving north to our fair borough. Mayanoki dinners are presented in a traditional omakase format, perfectly sympathetic to eating seasonally, and there are wine pairings (think rosés, Gewürztraminers, some Pinot Noirs) to go along with the fish. It’s been very popular (they have over 800 people on their email announce list) over the years because of the high quality of the fish, the educational aspect, and the overall deliciousness present in the entire meal. On top of it all, Mayanoki is the first Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch-certified sushi restaurant in New York. That’s a big deal.

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I asked David what “Mayanoki” means, and he responded with “That is a question for the ages.” It’s basically a beautiful sounding made-up word. David recalls its origins, which happened when he and his business partner, Josh Arak were brainstorming names. “One night we were watching a movie and saw two different names—one was Maya and one was Noki. We put them together and it just sounded right, and then we applied it to our supper club when we started doing that.”

Since the dinners are in omakase format (fish choices are left to the chef), the seats are limited—they will top out at 10 persons per meal. This gives diners a chance to speak with Chef Mitsuru during the meal, more opportunities to ask about the fish they are eating that night, and have a relaxed time with each other. For now, they are planning one dinner per month, with the hopes of expanding that to a dinner every other week. Eventually, they would like to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

As for the fish, you will likely be eating things you might be less familiar with, which goes beyond the salmon-yellowtail-tuna triad that is so prevalent in today’s sushi restaurants. Fish you might encounter could include arctic char (one of the most sustainable, if not the most sustainable, farmed fish species) or striped bass. Along with that there could be familiar shellfish and mollusk friends like oysters, scallops, and even octopus. And while you’re eating, David of Josh and Chef Mitsuru will talk a bit about the sourcing, origins, and background of the fish and seafood you’re eating. Education is a big part of what they do.

On that point, David elaborated. “What we’re trying to do is make it just as much about education as it is about the dining experience,” he explains. “First and foremost, people are paying a decent amount of money for a ticket to come and eat 10, 12, 15 pieces of sushi. But part of it is, if you look at the high end sushi restaurants in the city, the pinnacle of their piece is still the Bluefin toro, and it’s like, why the fuck are we still serving Bluefin for heaven’s sake. What I’ve learned over the past few years is that it’s really a catch-22, in that the chef only wants to buy and serve what they think people want and people don’t know what’s available.”

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Photo credit: Mayanoki

They also discovered a way to introduce diners to new-to-them fish in a gentle way. “In the beginning we were giving people menus and they were saying ‘I don’t like this, I don’t like that, can I change this for that.’ At one point we stopped that and wondered if they were just going to freak out, and nobody did. And what was amazing was that the pieces that people were concerned about earlier (e.g., oysters, artic char, striped bass) were what they loved the most when they didn’t know what it was ahead of time. At the end of the meal we always ask people to let us know what their favorite piece was and we’ll prepare it for them. The number one piece requested was arctic char. I don’t know any other place in the city that serves it.”

Arctic char is a very interesting fish, a cross between salmon and trout. David is clearly impressed with this fish. “They are raised in recirculating tanks on shore so there’s no opportunity for external bacteria to contaminate the pen and make an entire crop of fish sick,” he explains. “So there’s no need to use any antibiotics or steroids to get them to market size. The amount of water they reuse is minimal because it’s a recirculating tank. Dirty water is removed; waste is skimmed off and turned into fertilizer. This makes a positive environmental impact—the most environmentally friendly fish is arctic char.”

Regarding the sourcing of the fish, they work closely with Mermaid’s Garden, Greenpoint Fish and Co., and the Lobster Place. Fish from Long Island and New Jersey. If they can’t find what they want raised here in the US, which they believe has the best fishery management in the world, they will source from sustainable suppliers in New Zealand, Canada, Iceland, and Japan.

Right now, pricing per dinner is $75 per person, and that includes wine pairings. Considering what you’re getting and it sounds like a good deal—high quality fish that is sustainably raised, some delicious wine to go with it, a chance to learn more about what you’re eating, a convivial atmosphere, all in the lovely, intimate setting with friends old and new.

David “We would love for everybody to come and check out our dinners; especially with sushi, every slice really does have an impact. We hope it inspires you afterwards as you’re sitting at your local sushi joint, ordering pieces to ask the waitress or chef where the fish came from and how it was caught. It’s a very simple thing (typically, that’s how it’s done in Japan) and it can have a very large impact, especially if a lot of people start doing it.”

To receive notifications of the first and future sustainable sushi popup dinners at RESOBOX, subscribe to the Mayanoki newsletter at http://www.mayanoki.com/

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

3 Comments

Sushi Delivery Montreal

Mayanoki dinners are presented in a traditional omakase format, perfectly sympathetic to eating seasonally, and there are wine pairings to go along with the fish. It’s been very popular over the years because of the high quality of the fish

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