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Exclusive: Inside Ama Sushi, the Luxe New Omakase Experience in Santa Barbara Wine Country

Combining ingredients from Japan with seafood from California's Central Coast.

Carpaccio Ama Sushi Jakob Layman

As far back as 2,000 years ago, “ama” divers in Japan have free dove for pearls and seafood like abalone in the depths of Tokyo (Edo) Bay. Primarily women, the highly skilled swimmers foraged for the freshest catches of the day and shared them with their villagers, a practice that is still alive along the shorelines of the bay.

Now, Ama Sushi, opening July 29 in Rosewood Miramar Beach, is translating the awesomeness of that ancient tradition to diners on California’s Central Coast. 

Located inside the five-star Montecito resort, AMA Sushi is guided by three sushi masters—executive chef Kentaro Ikuta (Michelin-starred Omakase and Kinjo in San Francisco), Scott Yonamine (Musashi Sushi in Tokyo) and sushi chef Wendy Ramos (Nobu Malibu). While none of them will be diving for the fish on the plate, they will be sourcing them from the waters of Santa Barbara, a focus on locality that’s at the heart of Japan’s Edomae style.

Kinmedai nigiri

Kinmedai nigiri  Jakob Layman

Edomae sushi is sourced locally (as ama divers did in Edo Bay) and is often marinated in salt or vinegar, a preservation technique established in the 1600s to extend the shelf life of raw fish. The extensive nigiri and sashimi offerings of wild and sustainable fish at Ama Sushi will include abalone, uni, yellowtail and Shime-Saba (marinated mackerel). Some fish like tuna, along with A5 Wagyu, will be sourced from Japan.

“I am thrilled to bring almost 30 years of experience in the traditional Edomae school to this special region of California, famous for its pristine seafood and the perfect home for a seasonal expression of Japanese fine dining,” Osaka-born chef Ikuta said. 

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In addition to a la carte sushi—prepared at a 13-seat, scallop-shaped, white onyx sushi bar—Ama Sushi will offer an omakase menu with dishes such as oysters dressed with chili, daikon and ponzu; crab salad made with cucumber and wakame seaweed; fried chicken karaage; grilled cod with pickled ginger and sake-kasu (a nutritious byproduct of sake production); and clam miso soup. 

tofu uni

Tofu and uni  Jakob Layman

The wines come primarily from California, the spirits list includes more than 30 Japanese whiskies and a unique sake list features six available by the carafe and 40 by the bottle. Cocktails include the Kosame, a modern combination of Japanese vodka, shiso, rice wine vinegar, verjus and roasted black sesame sea salt.

“Sushi-yas, restaurants that specialize in sushi, are an inextricable part of California’s food culture and we are honored to bring our version to life here with Ama Sushi,” said Massimo Falsini, director of culinary operations of Rosewood Miramar Beach. “Chef Ikuta’s expertise and meticulous attention to detail along with our renowned brand of five-star service will make for a truly memorable sushi adventure.”

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