Susan Jung: How a restaurant's name landed me in the soup

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 10:33am

What's in a name? A lot, as I found out recently when I reviewed the new Fu Sing Shark Fin Seafood Restaurant in Central.

It was a rather tepid review - I liked some things I ordered, but didn't find this branch as good as the original in Wan Chai. But it wasn't my criticism of the too-lean roast pork belly or the too-salty beef brisket that attracted name calling and irate comments from readers when excerpts were published on the South China Morning Post's Out and About Facebook page - it was the name of the restaurant. The phrase, "shark fin", was like a red flag to a bull. It didn't matter that I hadn't ordered any shark fin; the fact that I was writing about a restaurant that served it was enough.

The comments on Facebook were quite interesting, if only because they show how people can sound unreasonable when they're angry about something; they'd be more persuasive if they kept their emotions in check and tried to convince, rather than bully. The thing is, I actually agree with them, to a point. I think finning (removing the fins from the live shark, then throwing it back into the ocean to die) is abhorrent. I don't order shark fin - when I review a restaurant, or when I'm dining out with friends. I never write about shark's fin promotions, when I get e-mails about places serving it on buffets or as special dishes, I delete them.

It's obvious that many of those who responded didn't bother to read the review, because some of them accused me of eating shark's fin soup. The most extreme posters said I should boycott all restaurants that serve shark's fin - which would mean avoiding most mid-range to expensive Chinese restaurants (there are some hotel groups - such as The Peninsula and Shangri-La - that don't serve shark fin).

The first Fu Sing opened in about 2005. In this day and age, most of us would agree that the restaurant has a misguided name. While shark fin is still considered by many to be a status symbol, there is a growing movement to avoid eating it. But just because a restaurant doesn't have shark fin in its name doesn't mean it isn't serving it. And just because a restaurant that opened seven years ago has shark fin in its name doesn't make it any guiltier than other places that also have it on their menus. It just makes it an easier, more convenient target.