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Burlingame Restaurant Offers Lion Meat Amid Controversy

BURLINGAME (KPIX 5) -- A restaurant on the Peninsula known for its exotic fare has caused a bit of an uproar over a new menu item. For foodies who are interested in the controversial dish, it does not come cheap.

At Mokutanya Yakitori Restaurant in Burlingame, the mane course on Thursday was lion.

"It was really good," said Mike Manole of San Mateo. "It was a little chewier than I expected but it was really juicy and had a lot of flavor."

Commonly known as the king of the jungle, the toughest animal out there is turning out to be kind of tough himself.

"It's a little tougher than I expected. It's kind of between beef and chicken," said Andy Lee of San Mateo.

Mokutanya is known for its exotic fare, including peacock and swan. The restaurant just received a shipment of lion on Thursday.

"I had it last year. And then I sold out in a week," said Jason Li of Mokutanya.

The meat is farm-raised African lion that comes from Illinois. One skewer, three cubes, five ounces will set a customer back $70.

"I believe it's very hard to get. I did not bargain on the price," Li said.

He also didn't bargain on the controversy it has caused here and at the few other restaurants around the country where lion is on the menu.

"People, like here, are eating lion then the demand goes up," a customer who did not give her name told KPIX 5. "And if the demand goes up, then the threat on lions might go up as well."

The woman is a regular customer, an animal lover, but she is among those who are outraged.

While it is not illegal to serve lion, Brandy Kuentzel of the SPCA said the animal is at risk of going extinct.

Kuentzel said the lion is listed as a threatened species, and not an endangered one, so it falls into a crack in the legal system, and a crack in regulation.

"Between the USDA and FDA, so they really aren't regulated by one industry from start to finish," she said.

A restaurant in Florida was also hit with protests over serving lion and quit offering it on the menu. There are no plans to do that here.

"If no one buys it, they won't farm raise it anyway. If we went to hunt it, then it's a different thing," Li said.

Li told KPIX 5 he has enough lion to serve customers for the next two weeks.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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