The internet is divided over a newly opened Australian sushi counter in New York, after one chef accused the owner of “colonizing” Japanese cuisine.
Sushi Counter in New York City’s West Village is an Australian-style hand roll restaurant, founded by an Australian woman who has been dubbed “Sushi Sheila” by the internet.
Sushi, which originated in Japan, is popular in many countries across the world, and it’s not unheard of for a restaurant to put their own local spin on the dish. The ubiquitous California roll, for instance, was created to appeal to American diners in the 1970s, who were unfamiliar with the custom of eating raw fish.
Similarly, Sushi Counter sells “Aussie-style hand rolls,” which have been adapted to local tastes. Instead of traditional sushi, the restaurant serves large, uncut sushi rolls with fillings like teriyaki chicken and cooked tuna, which the website cites as “Very Australian!”
@boujeebitesonly New aussie-style sushi rolls in the West Village that won’t break the bank👏🏻🍣💸 📍@Sushi Counter #nycsushi #nycsushitakeout #nycsushispots #nycsushireviews #nycsushilovers #sushicounternyc #westvillage #westvillagenyc #westvillageeats #westvillagefood #westvillagefoodies #westvillagerestaurant #hiddengemsnyc #thingstodoinnyc #nycopening ♬ Hey Lover – The Daughters Of Eve
However, Chef Eric Rivera (@ericriveracooks) has taken issue with the concept of an Australian woman opening a sushi restaurant in New York City. Rivera’s account on X, formerly known as Twitter, is currently private, but screenshots of his post can be found on the account Dumb B*tch Capital, LLC (@dumbb*tchcap).
Rivera aired his grievances with the eatery and its owner in a post that showed Sheila popping a bottle of Moët. The caption read, “There aren’t enough good sushi places in NYC so time to open one!”
Rivera continued to denounce Sheila in a series of posts. “But it’s ‘stralian sushi. give me a break colonizer,” read one, followed by another that said, “If you don’t see why this is a problem you are part of the problem.”
Rivera’s posts sparked a backlash and soon, others began to accuse the Australian sushi restaurant owner of cultural appropriation. It also prompted a series of one-star reviews to appear on the restaurant’s Google page.
The reviews, a number of which were screenshotted and reposted by Dumb B*tch Capital, LLC, accuse the eatery of appropriating Japanese cuisine and participating in the gentrification of New York City. The overwhelming fallout appears to have led the Sushi Counter to delete all existing content from their TikTok page.
However, in an unusual twist, many came to the defense of this white woman. According to online publication spiked, a number of X users pointed out that Rivera himself is from Puerto Rico and had been planning to open a Puerto Rican and Japanese fusion restaurant in North Carolina this year.
People also accused Rivera of clout chasing. X user big dog (@vileslug) noted, “The guy who is mad at the Australian woman for opening a sushi restaurant when it turns out he opened a Japanese fusion restaurant is also the guy who accused bon appetit of gentrifying saltine crackers.”
The guy who is mad at the Australian woman for opening a sushi restaurant when it turns out he opened a Japanese fusion restaurant is also the guy who accused bon appetit of gentrifying saltine crackers. https://t.co/by7ZiL7gjH— big dog (@vileslug) October 23, 2023
Another user, Dr. Samantha Hancox-Li (@perdricof) said Rivera was one of those “clout grifters trading on the most headassed versions of leftism for clicks.” Hancox-Li listed, “the saltines guy–the spices guy–the thanksgiving guy–the australian sushi guy–ALL HIM.”
the saltines guy–the spices guy–the thanksgiving guy–the australian sushi guy–ALL HIM— Dr. Samantha Hancox-Li (@perdricof) October 23, 2023
Both users are referring to an incident from 2019, when Rivera accused Bon Appétit’s Kendra Vaculin of gentrifying saltine crackers after she suggested using za’atar to flavor the crackers.
Hancox-Li also mentioned two other instances of Rivera’s clout chasing via a repost from X user Senior PowerPoint Engineer (@ryxcommar), who additionally noted that the crusader may have his own ulterior motives.
eric rivera's thing is posting fairly tame ragebait and using the engagement to promote his business where he mixes some spices and sells them at a ridiculous markup. which, in fairness, is more honest than his previous gig of scamming people out of their thanksgiving dinners. https://t.co/cVk2Kx0Gmw pic.twitter.com/rn4qbIaj4C— Senior PowerPoint Engineer (@ryxcommar) September 11, 2023
They wrote, “Eric rivera’s thing is posting fairly tame ragebait and using the engagement to promote his business where he mixes some spices and sells them at a ridiculous markup. which, in fairness, is more honest than his previous gig of scamming people out of their thanksgiving dinners.”
The user appears to be talking about Rivera’s website, where the chef currently sells spice mixes, and to a previous endeavor in which Rivera ran a Thanksgiving pop-up that received a number of negative reviews on Yelp.
Additionally, X user Monjula Ray (@queerBengali), a queer person of color pointed out, “The thing I have to say about the Australian lady who wanted to open a sushi restaurant is that a lot of men want to bully women and successfully do so by adding the word white to why they are bullying. But they just want to bully successful women.”
The thing I have to say about the Australian lady who wanted to open a sushi restaurant is that a lot of men want to bully women and successfully do so by adding the word white to why they are bullying.— Monjula Ray 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ (@queerBengali) October 23, 2023
But they just want to bully successful women.
Ray continued, “This is not a defense of white womanhood but I am deeply suspicious of men who bully women. They’ll come after the rest of us, if we could secure funding. Do not join in these harassment campaigns because you hate colonizers or whatever. Most of you do this because you are envious and should sit with that issue first.”
The Daily Dot reached out to Sushi Counter and Rivera via email for comment.