Shark Week…It’s What’s For Dinner?

Ever since Jaws debuted in 1975, Americans have been obsessed with sharks. And for the past 20 years, the Discovery Channel has been capitalizing on both our love and fear of the underwater predators with Shark Week, seven days of programming about Great Whites, their diets (mostly grouper), and of course, their bloodcurdling attacks on humans. (Check out their Shark Week blog for more).

Obi Sushi in Reston Town Center was inspired by the phenomenon, and has rolled out a shark-themed menu with shark fin soup, shark tempura sushi rolls (so far the two most popular dishes), grilled shark salad with plum dressing, and grilled shark steak with hachyo miso sauce. The promotion runs through Monday, August 6. But wait–isn't it controversial to eat shark fin? And aren't many shark species headed for the endangered list?

This past March, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) contacted local Asian restaurants like Chinatown’s Full Kee, Tony Cheng’s Seafood Restaurant and Wheaton’s Hollywood East Café, begging them to ban shark fin soup, a traditional Chinese delicacy, from their menus. Since sharks have slow reproductive rates, and finning causes them to suffer long and painful deaths (up to 73 million are killed each year), extinction is a constant threat. Back in 2000, President Clinton signed a Shark-Finning Prohibition Act, preventing the “finning” of the live, helpless creatures.

So what does Obi Sushi have to say? Scotty Charneco, director of marketing for owners Thompson Hospitality, says that “people should be asking the same questions about certain types of beef. Or alligator served in Louisiana.” From her perspective, plenty of long-time regional delicacies are considered controversial.

But Obi Sushi isn’t doing this to rile up controversy. This is their first “celebration,” and as Charneco emphasizes, “it’s not a celebration of killing the fish.” Rather, it’s “an opportunity to offer something unique for diners–especially since people are fascinated with the man-eating predators.” Why not turn the tables and let man do the eating, right?

While "shark" might make your personal list of "oddest foods ever eaten," there's something unsettling about all this. Especially if it's not that exciting taste-wise. "It's kinda like chicken," Charneco points out. "To be honest, it's a pretty bland fish."