AMA Sushi Offers a Delightful Dive into Elevated Dining
Montecito’s Newest Michelin Mention Is Sushi as Showstopper
Ama are Japanese divers, mainly women, who are famous for collecting fresh seafood and pearls from the depths of the sea. AMA Sushi, the Rosewood Miramar Beach’s latest fine dining restaurant, pays homage to these women and this century-old practice from Tokyo. With a Michelin mention already under its belt, AMA is adding an elevated Santa Barbara shine to a refreshingly traditional experience and creating magic with every perfectly crafted bite.
Entering this enclave of seafood dreams, diners are greeted by an intimate U-shaped bar where the humble Executive Chef Kentaro “Ken” Ikuta creates a dazzling display of what magic can happen when quality ingredients and focused intention are infused into every dish. Chef Ikuta began his culinary career in Osaka before moving to California, where he’s spent the last 13 years at Michelin-starred omakase concepts. He is joined by Chef de Cuisine Scott Yonamine, who was most recently in Tokyo at Musashi Sushi, and Sushi Chef Wendy Ramos from Nobu Malibu.
“AMA is a small Tokyo home where guests are invited to experience the intimacy and tradition of an ancient Edomae-style sushi. They can choose a prix-fixe dinner in the dining room or the more personal experience in the omakase bar,” said Massimo Falsini, director of culinary operations for the resort. “In many ways, our omakase is a spiritual companion and counterpoint to kaiseki, an elaborate multi-course meal built around seasonality, quality ingredients, and simple preparation.”
We started our omakase experience with a welcome cocktail called the boketto. Each cocktail is inspired by Japanese concepts, philosophies, and feelings. According to the menu, the boketto should ignite the “feeling of waking up after gazing vacantly into the distance without a thought.” A delightful mix of Roku Japanese gin, Sakura vermouth, verjus, elderflower liqueur, and Sakura fizz, this tiny sipper certainly oriented my mind and taste buds toward the delights to come.
“Inspired by the art of Japanese minimalism, our signature cocktails at AMA Sushi are clean and powerful in their simplicity, and captivating in their elegance,” said Falsini.
The zensai appetizer trio served in a small wooden box was a showstopper — and the tasting adventure had just begun. It included a bite of fish eggs with seaweed, an omelet filled with eel, and a decadent Komochi Kombu. We marveled at the range of flavors and textures that teased our palates. For a fun complimentary experience, you can pair each course of the menu with a wide selection of highly prized premium sake sourced from prefectures throughout Japan. However, I was distracted by their lovely wine options curated by the Rosewood’s Director of Wine, Daniel Fish, and went with a beautiful Italian rosé of sangiovese.
From there, we traveled through a sophisticated adventure of sashimi; fried “agemono,” including an incredible lobster tempura; sunomono; sushi; miso soup; and dessert. Highlights from their sushi section included an unbelievably buttery toro and, of course, the crowd-pleaser of Wagyu, which sparkled with a shave of truffle on top. As a condiment lover, I was amazed by just how satisfied I was by each delicate preparation of fish. With quality sustainable seafood sourced from local purveyors such as Sea Stephanie Fish, and a few from Japan, each bite didn’t need a smattering of sauce to shine. Under Chef Ikuta’s watchful hand, the dish’s delectable essence was highlighted rather than disguised.
We truly could not be in better hands than Ikuta’s. His attention to detail, including the plating, truly sang, and it was a joy to watch him slice, blowtorch, and serve with precision and care. As he placed each edible gift in front of us with a “Thank you,” I thought, “Wait a minute — who should be thanking who here?” But his traditional politeness was just as unflappable as his culinary skills.
AMA will stand apart from other omakase experiences I’ve had with its ability to truly satisfy in mind, body, and spirit — especially in body. While other sushi meals have left me with an itch for French fries afterward, this dinner left me delightfully sated. The two generous desserts — a beautiful black sesame cheesecake and a creamy yuzu posset with bright citrus notes — were the ideal final flavors to invigorate our journey home. However, after the warm service, unbelievable food, and exceptional experience, I didn’t want to leave our Tokyo-meets-Riviera oasis.
AMA Sushi is located at the Rosewood Miramar Beach (1759 S. Jameson Ln., Montecito). See rosewoodhotels.com/en/miramar-beach-montecito/dining/ama-sushi.
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