When we told you about Uo’s live-sushi nights a few months back, we had no idea the specialty might be construed as cruelty to animals. Yet a complaint was evidently filed to the ASPCA, and on Tuesday night, two officers appeared at the LES restaurant to investigate. "I had just gone home to change and I got a call from the restaurant to go back," recalls owner Frannie Marchese. "I walk in, and it’s two officers standing there taking down my license information." Marchese says the officers seemed less concerned when they understood what the restaurant was serving. "They saw the tentacle on the board. They saw it’s not actually that you’re cutting into a fish and its heart is still beating on the plate" she explained. "We’re talking about mollusks that don’t have a central nervous system. What about raw bars, and lobsters dropped into pots of boiling water? If you cite us, you could cite every raw bar first."
Though they were “really nice” about it, ASPCA officer John Akdikmen and his colleague told Marchese they would be back in touch this coming week and that she might receive a letter of disapproval from the organization, or that a hearing would possibly be required. Marchese, who is a regular volunteer at the Center for Animal Cruelty and Control, and who raises foster dogs, is trying to remain sanguine. "On the one hand, I’m so bemused, because it’s ridiculous," she told us. "On the other hand, it might cost me thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fees."
Despite the disruption, Marchese plans to continue with live sushi. Customers love it, she says, and she’s now serving it Tuesday through Thursday nights, and occasionally on other nights depending on supply. She says that the quality of Uo’s fish in general has gone up since John Daley replaced David Bouhadana as sushi chef last month. "John has connections with distributors even more than David did, so our quality has jumped up. He’ll put things in front of you that you go home thinking about."