Plain Good Sushi

Does anyone have suggestions for good Sushi in Santa Barbara? I have lived here for over 15 years and enjoyed Ichiban’s quality and selection of good fish. It has gotten kinda sad recently, and perhaps my standards are high, but I have not been satisfied and used to love it when my old Sushi guy was there.

I am looking for a place that consistently has good Uni and Toro and also has a selection of revolving seasonal fish for sushi. Not to sound snobby, but I am not looking for a Japanese/fusion burrito. It seems that recently all that is popping up in our tourist community are roll houses, which are cool on occasion, but not what I am looking for. Most of them use lesser quality fish since they can mask it with whatever sauce they come up with.

Am I just being picky or should I start buying my own fish?

What do you think?


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  1. Someone told me that Arigato on State Street has been rated top 20 sushi restaurants in the United States. I don’t know if that’s true. But I can say that Arigato is by far and away the best sushi in Santa Barbara. And yes I’m a total sushi snob. Stand out front at 5:15 and they will let you in at 5:30 and you can pick the best seat of the house.

  2. New place on upper State St. Sun Sushi is very traditional and has good, fresh fish. My personal favorite is Shintori Sushi Factory at State and Calle Laureles but they do tend to have a lot of fusion/American sushi items. I’m not a fan of uni so can’t speak to that for either of these places.

  3. Definitely Arigato if you’re a “sushi snob”. Their fish is always several cuts above the rest. Itsuki is also a cut above Ichiban but it all seriously comes down to the sushi chef. I suggest you mix it up and not go to the same one on a regular basis as the one time they don’t meet the quality you’ve come to expect it’s over but to be surprised frequently keeps the magic alive.

  4. I am not a true purist or connoisseur, but sushi in America these days certainly seems to have gotten off course with the oversaucing and the misbegotten roll concoctions. In my visits to places here (been to most of them), I found this to be the case, especially with the talked-up Arigato and Sakana, also with the unmentioned Yume Sushi. I have been happy with Ichiban in the past, but haven’t been there lately — am sorry people are talking about a decline, although I wonder… the owners know the business.

    I love Edomasa’s late-night, funky ambience. Certainly more fun than most places in this town, not only sushi spots…

    We do have a new kid on the block, and they are closer to what I want a sushi place to be than any other. It’s Sun Sushi, in the old Ahi Sushi spot on upper State. They are old-school, high quality, and reasonable, and some of their fish is coming each week from Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. Busy at 8pm on a Wednesday night in a neighborhood that goes home early. This is a big welcome addition to dining here —

  5. While tidepooling as a child in Southern California I remember my horror when I saw Japanese folks cracking open sea urchins and eating them alive. Fast forward to living in Santa Barbara as an adult, learning to develop a taste for uni, and eventually eating them alive right on the docks when the fisherman bring them in and offload their net bags. When you crack the animal open you get both the sperm, milt, and the eggs, and it is not suffused with the stabilizer that stiffens them for transport when they go through the processing. Eating gonads, epic aphrodisiac.

  6. I like Shintori a lot, went there after not eating there for years. I like the very casual ambiance and the food was good.

    Have not yet tried Sun; heard good things from a business owner in same mall.

    I’ve eaten most often at Edomasa because it used to be in my walking distance. Knowing the sushi chef does make a difference. He’d go to Freeman’s for a Scotch many years ago; we’d show up for dinner a little later. He didn’t pay for drinks! (Yes, I’m embarrassed to not remember his name; he’s still there.)

    I ate at Arigato regularly very VERY long ago, when I had a sushi-eating crew I worked with. I’m obviously not too picky, but I hate rolls and americanized stuff, and scraped tuna with hot sauce to cover any funk. Though I don’t eat tuna anymore. Hamachi? omg, Homer drool.

    I’ve only been to Kyoto a couple of times. Any thoughts?

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