Miya’s Sushi In New Haven (I)—Stunning Oregon Scenery And A Meeting On Sustainability

I have been a friend of Miya’s Sushi in New Haven pretty much since the restaurant opened in the early 1980s around the corner from its current location. I have enjoyed its evolution from a really good traditional Japanese eatery as managed by businesswoman Yoshiko Lai to a hip, challenging, wildly creative culinary destination as managed by her son Bun. Astonishingly, despite most sushi chefs’ voracious appetite for creatures better left to replenish themselves, Miya’s Sushi has become a leader in the discourse on sustainability.

Think of restaurants as arranged on a left-to-right continuum from destructive to planet-friendly. The overwhelming majority would be clustered near the left, the small fraction of restaurants that avidly practice farm-to-table ideals further to the right, and at the extreme right, a mere handful of restaurants that practice true sustainability. Fish2Fork, a sustainability rating site, tabbed Miya’s as one of America’s three most sustainable restaurants.

Bun and I had numerous conversations last summer on the thorny topic of sustainability while I was writing a piece on him for Connecticut Magazine. We hoped to meet up somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, but our schedules never converged. I was traveling around Oregon with my mother, revisiting favorite places from my youth. I had lived in Eugene in the 1960s, and briefly, in Portland in the mid-1980s, and I hadn’t managed to return to the state since two visits in the late 1980s, when I participated in an American Indian friend’s wedding and sought to climb the South Sister with my daughter, Rebecca, and my girlfriend. It was a long and painful absence from this place of my heart.

Oregon is not only one of our most beautiful states but one of its most environmentally conscious. Take a photo tour with me that hopefully will be inspiring. Remember that you can click on any photograph to enlarge it. Then we’ll take a look at some of the individuals who wish to protect our natural resources, starting with reshaping the consumer desires that drive rapacious fishing practices. All of these photos, like everything else on this website, are of course copyrighted materials.

The photos begin with Oregon’s highest and deadliest peak, Mount Hood, which I summited thrice in the 1980s. I photographed it from Mount Tabor, a volcanic cinder cone turned city park in Portland.

Crown Point, which lies perhaps fifteen miles east of Portland, has tremendous views of the Columbia Gorge.

Yellow lichen and green vegetation create startling color contrasts around Latourell Falls, one of many cascades created when the Columbia River carved this canyon through the appropriately named Cascades Mountains.

Multnomah Falls is one of America’s highest and most scenic falls.

Vivid greenery can be found along the Columbia River.

Viewed from the Washington side of the Columbia River looking to the Oregon side, a paddleboat avoids the shallows.

On the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge, a view from high on Beacon Rock shows the mighty Columbia River that Woody Guthrie sang so beautifully about.

Other big rivers add power to you,
Yakima, Snake and the Hood River too,
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn,
Roll on, Columbia, roll on!
© Copyright 1936 (renewed), 1957 (renewed) and 1963 (renewed) by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. & TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)

In this photograph alone, there are fourteen switchbacks of the precipitous trail that climbs Beacon Rock, a freestanding volcanic plug rising from the bottom of the Gorge.

Some young ladies and a young gentleman on the descent of Beacon Rock.

A view of irrigation at the foot of the Wallowa Mountains in eastern Oregon.

The spectacle of crescent-shaped Wallowa Lake from the Mount Howard Tramway. Note the high glacial moraines that skirt the lake.

A view to other Wallowa Mountains from near the 8,256 foot summit of Mount Howard.

This mule deer at the foot of the tramway was grazing in front of this sign for the Summit Grill, blissfully unaware of any irony and unconcerned about becoming one of the “grilled N.W. specialties.”

One of many kokanee salmon in the shallows of the stream at the head of Wallowa Lake.

The grave of Nez Pierce Chief Joseph, the Wallowa Mountains in the background.

The rim of Hell’s Canyon, one of the deepest on earth and one of the remotest spots in the Lower 48. Seeing the rim is one thing, getting down there is a whole other matter.

Sunset over the semi-arid desert of the John Day Basin.

Colorful banding in the extremely arid Painted Hills.

Smith Rock has become one of the top rock climbing destinations in America. I preferred it 25 years ago when sometimes I shared it with just the deer.

From Century Drive near Mount Bachelor, there are wonderful views (left to right) of the South Sister, Middle Sister, North Sister and Broken Top.

Here is a view of Broken Top from pristine Todd Lake.

A streambed forms a sight line to the South Sister.

The South Sister as seen from Sparks Lake.

A view to Sparks Lake and Mount Bachelor.

The Deschutes River surrounded by lush greenery.

Palagonite tuff pinnacles on little known Wake Butte.

Plentiful evidence of past volcanism can be seen from the drive-up summit of roughly 8,000-foot-high Paulina Peak as one looks out over Paulina Lake and East Lake in the Newberry Caldera.

A small lake forms around the terminus of a massive obsidian flow in the Newberry Caldera.

Precipitous Mount Thielsen, sometimes nicknamed the “lightning rod of the Cascades,” which I summited in 1985.

Ethereal Crater Lake from its rim on a day made hazy by a nearby controlled wildfires.

While others jumped and swam from lower rocks while waiting for the tour boat to Wizard Island, fearless Dallas Brown steps off into oblivion.

Crater Lake reflections viewed from the tour boat.

Crater Lake viewed from the rim of the cinder cone on Wizard Island.

The Phantom Ship of Crater Lake emerges from haze fed by the nearby wildfires.

The otherworldly Pumice Castle of Crater Lake.

Driftwood and sea stacks of beautiful Bandon Beach.

More sea stacks just south of Bandon Beach.

The Coos Bay area has incredible fishing and crabbing.

Devil’s Punchbowl can really be something when the seas run big.

Pull off just before the Rocky Creek Bridge on the Otter Crest Loop, and you can find this necktie-shaped waterfall with a twenty-foot drop to the ocean that is frequently dwarfed by ocean spray.

Fogarty Creek winds its way past a stegosaurus-like rock en route to the Pacific Ocean.

A lone figure braves high winds, dangerous surf and treacherous footing on the rocks of Fogarty Creek Beach.

Gulls search for food along Fogarty Creek.

The setting sun is split by clouds at Fogarty Creek Beach.

Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of Oregon’s most iconic landmarks.

A risky view of a sea stack north of Florence.

Miles of sand dunes skirt the ocean just north of Florence.

The Three Sisters as seen from outside the town of Sisters.

A cloud bank rolls in between the South Sister and distant Mount Bachelor.

The beautiful, fragile landscape to the south of the South Sister is carefully regulated.

Moraine Lake comes into view, while the South Sister looms in the background.

Early morning mist rises from Moraine Lake.

Climbing just above the false summit of the South Sister, Teardrop Lake is in the foreground, Moraine Lake is to the more distant right, and Sparks Lake and Mount Bachelor are in the background.

Sculpted ice in the summit crater of the South Sister.

Small glacial lakes northeast of the South Sister.

The Middle Sister and the North Sister from the summit of the South Sister, Oregon’s third highest peak at 10,358 feet.

The Middle Sister, the North Sister and Mount Jefferson from the South Sister’s summit.

A lenticular cloud enshrouds Mount Bachelor.

A broken footbridge causes two starting climbers to detour significantly and gives this exhausted returning climber an unwelcome challenge just minutes from the parking lot.

So what do all of these beautiful photos have to do with food? Few, if any, of us spend much time thinking about the impact our eating habits have on the planet and its future. We’re doing well if we give thought to the impact of our food upon us.

While I was rediscovering the great state of Oregon, Bun was the keynote speaker at the American Fisheries Society 141st Annual Meeting in Seattle. He was traveling in an RV with three buddies, one of whom was a documentary filmmaker. After Bun left Seattle, he headed to Elkton, Oregon to fish for smallmouth bass on the Umpqua River, a true fisherman’s paradise. That stirred nostalgic feelings in me—for one of my early birthdays, I had fished the Umpqua with my father and fellow University of Oregon biologist Andrew Bajer when the striped bass were running.

Bun and his travel companions made their way back across the country by way of St. Louis and North Carolina, where a friend of his had a sustainable restaurant. Besides fishing and foraging for crayfish, freshwater clams and even grasshoppers and locusts (apparently delicious sautéed with rice and beans), Bun was experiencing the American foodscape. He had been trying to eat well on the road, but falling off the wagon occasionally. He was looking forward to getting home, where he can really put all of his ideals into play. Miya’s menu is devoid of tuna and shrimp, because they are practically poster children for ecological harm.

Two weeks ago, on February 28, 2012, Bun held a Sustainable Seafood Discussion & Feast at Miya’s to discuss issues of sustainability. Wouldn’t this all-electric, zero-emissions Nissan Leaf borrowed from Hoffman Nissan in West Simsbury be an excellent vehicle to show up in for such a meeting?

This slogan adorns Miya’s front window.

A small crowd of restaurateurs, press, friends of Miya’s and friends of the environment gathered for the meeting.

Charismatic Bun kicked off the meeting

and introduced his delightful research assistant, Ariana Bain.

Among Bun’s guests was that North Carolina friend, William Dissen, who owns Market Place Restaurant in Asheville.

There were also plenty of New Haven area chefs, like David Foster,

“Big Cheese” Jason Sobocinski (left) and his chef from Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro,

and in the right background, Arturo Franco-Camacho of Tacuba Taco Bar.

Great-looking treats were awaiting Miya’s guests.

People piled in line for the food,

and before long, new items were added.

My remaining photos show the restaurant and its guests.

In our next article in this series, we will look examine some of the foods served at Miya’s Sushi that are sustainable and some that even target harmful invasive species for consumption.

Miya’s Sushi, 68 Howe Street, New Haven, 203-777-9760

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