JILLIAN TALBOT, a 26-year-old Californian, lay very still on a long, elegant table draped with a red tablecloth in the basement wine cellar of Ambassador Wines and Spirits at Second Avenue and 54th Street. Except for the fresh sushi, the big tropical leaves and the pink sea shells that covered her willowy six-foot frame, Ms. Talbot was nude.
On each side of the table sat a well-dressed couple engaged in lively conversation with the store’s owner, a professed sake geek named Leonard Phillips. Although Mr. Phillips’s specialty is sake, he has another claim to fame: His store is one of the few places in the city that serve up sushi models.
On this night, Ms. Talbot gazed idly at the Italian fresco on the ceiling as conversation around her bounced from fermentation periods to residual sugar scales and other fine points of sake production. At one point, a guest asked how Ms. Talbot was doing.
“Oh, I’m fine,” she replied with a smile.
Timidly at first, then with gusto, the guests lunged with wooden tongs at the tuna, eel and California rolls adorning Ms. Talbot’s frame.
Body sushi, as the practice is known, was on display in the movie “Sex and the City,” in a scene in which Samantha becomes a living sushi platter as a Valentine’s Day surprise for her boyfriend. And Hirosaki Koko, the 37-year-old freelance caterer who organized the event at the Ambassador wine stop, sees body sushi as an art form with a growing audience.
“What I’m doing with this,” Ms. Koko said, “is combining catering, body art and a little bit of eroticism.”
Her company, Nyotaimori, which means “female body arrangement” in Japanese, provides sushi along with male and female sushi models who are paid $100 an hour and perform at private events and parties throughout the city.
Starting last month, the wine shop began holding weekly two-hour gatherings attended by up to 10 people, each of whom paid $125 to learn about sake and eat the sushi from the model’s body. Although the event is popular among couples, Mr. Phillips said, it is generally women who sign up for the classes.
After the event at the Ambassador, Ms. Talbot, clothed in a black dress, sipped a glass of sake. She recalled that her first job, at a large private party near Union Square, was considerably more challenging. “It was a lot harder to keep still that time,” she said, “because this one girl kept tickling my feet.”
Her mother, she said, can hardly believe that people are eating off her. “I tell her not to worry about me,” Ms. Talbot said. “People are using chopsticks.”