Bay Area Restaurant Stops Serving Lion Meat Due to Uproar

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Bay Area Restaurant Stops Serving Lion Meat Due to Uproar
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Lion meat skewer, now off the menu at Mokutanya in Burlingame, California. (Photo courtesy of Mokuta …

Mokutanya restaurant in Burlingame, California, is a standard Japanese restaurant by many measures. They have numerous traditional Japanese dishes, as well as an extensive yakitori menu, most easily described as skewered meat and vegetables cooked over a charcoal grill. Chicken, beef, fish, and veggies are pretty standard for yakitori; however, Mokutanya is also known for more exotic fare such as peacock, alligator, kangaroo, swan, and iguana.

Their most recent menu addition? African lion.

For a limited time, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the restaurant offered a skewer of lion meat for $70. While the price was high, for some adventuresome diners, this could have been their only chance to taste the king of the jungle. Mokutanya's announcement of the limited special was met with much uproar, including negative comments on Yelp and Facebook, as well as deluge of angry phone calls.

The legality of the serving lion meat is not in question. African lion meat is not illegal to serve, just difficult to obtain. Restaurant owner Jason Li purchased 3-4 pounds of the meat from a lion farm in Illinois. U.S. law lists African lion as a threatened but not endangered species, so it's therefore legal to obtain and sell at an eating establishment. Organizations in the United States have petitioned for a law making the sale of the meat illegal. A restaurant in Florida recently offered lion tacos for $35, but quickly removed them from the menu after significant uproar.

After word of the Mokutanya's plan spread around the Bay Area, the negative press was too much for the restaurant to bear. Li told KGO-TV San Francisco that he received some 200 phone calls about the lion meat. "Some of them is really nice and peaceful like, 'Oh, can you stop selling lion meat?'" Li explained. "And some of them is like saying, 'Oh, I going to come in and rape you and kill you.'" The owner decided to pull the lion meat from Mokutanya's menu on Sunday night, posting the decision to Facebook.

According to the restaurant's website, peacock, iguana, venison, alligator, buffalo, wild boar, kangaroo, swan, and cocoon are still available as part of the exotic meat special on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m.

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