Saturday, January 19, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 46

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Sake Sushi is the top spot for Japanese fare in Santa Maria


It’s almost become a cliche to declare a love for “underground” food spots. It’s sort of an absurdist statement, if you really think about it. What do you exactly love? That food is prepared for you in a highly suspect environment that isn’t entirely on the up-and-up? Should this really be a thing foodie culture gets too supportive of? 

Sake Sushi in Town Center East is a hidden gem that takes pride in serving the freshest fish, expertly prepared.

The chicness of distress is a marketable commodity these days. I get that. I may not buy into it, but nevertheless I still appreciate what’s at its core: the love of pure unfussy food. Take for example Sake Sushi.

The first time I heard there was a sushi joint in the food court at the mall (the Town Center East mall to be specific, before my editor can jump in and insert this pedantic correction [Editor’s note: it’s actually the *Santa Maria* Town Center East mall]) I freely admit, I was aghast. That’s a dramatic word I use to demonstrate the sheer histrionics of food writer culture. We are set upon this landscape to judge, to jury, and to execute the spaces and dishes deemed less worthy than our fussy palates. Sometimes, it’s just a bunch of nonsense.

Sake Sushi (which is, for some reason, festooned with a great sign declaring it a TERIYAKI restaurant) is quite simply absolute hidden perfection. I half dreaded writing this column, lest I set upon them a wave of judgy Yelpers, more concerned with how many times their waitress refilled their Diet Cokes than the artistry gifted on the plates set before them.

Tempura, fried vegetables and/or shrimp in a special batter, is a staple at nearly every Japanese restaurant. Sake Sushi, located in Town Center East, has an option with a unique taste that doesn’t feel greasy or over-battered.

In a world where food elites embrace commonplace settings and scoff elaborate decorations, simplicity is king. Wolfgang Puck, in his heydey as star chef at Spago, would make his chefs not prepare for him great elaborate plates of haute cuisine, but rather simple dishes of scrambled eggs. Why? Because, as any food connoisseur worth his salt can tell you, simplicity is a god of necessary proportion. If you can prepare the most simple dish, without devious distractions of plating or (heaven forbid) deconstructive elements, you’re in like Flynn.

Sake Sushi serves simplicity as if it were a rare jewel discovered by a radical archaeologist. They hide their lovely genius behind a food court sign and a map of where to find the JC Penney.  For my first trip, I had a simple sushi platter which featured tuna, red snapper, shrimp, eel, mackerel, salmon, and the old California roll stand-by.

Sushi has the ability, in its simplicity, to trick a diner. If you’re not careful, you’ll take for granted the expert preparation needed to present that beautiful plate of sliced fish in front of you, and assume it’s no different from any other sushi place in town. But the devil is in the details, or in the case of Sake Sushi, it’s in the expert knife skills of the chef carefully laying out your dish.

For just $11.50, diners at Sake Sushi can get a four-item sushi combo with a California roll, the ideal lunch plate for the sushi connoisseur on the go.

One of the best things about the venue is the packed and diverse menu. Lunch is a breeze; you can order a good variety of your favorite sushi/bento box items that are all under $15. Plus, Sake Sushi makes experimenting easy with different options for combinations. If you’re in the mood for a roll, the four-piece combo with your choice of one of 10 different rolls is ideal (the Green Dragon combo tops the list at $16.50).

The sushi combo options also offer a lot for those looking to dabble. Peaking at $21.95 for five pieces of sushi, five pieces of sashimi, a California roll, and a hand roll, the combo is probably the best choice if you want to really get to know what Sake Sushi is all about.

One big surprise for me was the tempura. They have a vast number of options, whether you want to add it to a meal or enjoy it as an individual item. Their tempura is actually quite delicious—not too greasy but just sweet enough to feel distinct from just another plate of fried food.

Raw deal
Sake Sushi is located at 194 Town Center East, Santa Maria. More info: 922-9900.

Once you’re through sorting out meal options, make sure you flip the menu over for all their roll choices. I’m going to bow out of the eye-rolling debate on whether rolls are or are not “real” sushi (really, who cares) and just suggest you try that Burrito Roll, which sounds positively absurd but is actually a lot of fun on a plate.

I don’t think anyone at Sake Sushi is particularly obsessed with the title of hipster underground darling, and it clearly doesn’t matter. The restaurant has managed to become one of the best sushi places in all of the Central Coast, and I’m sure that wouldn’t change, no matter where they decided to set up shop.

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is probably at the mall buying shoes. Contact her at


Orcutt Burger has a very delicious pastrami cheeseburger (pictured), and do you see how carefully they place the ingredients? That’s lettuce under the tomato, which insulates it from getting wilted. Folks, that’s a burger joint that goes the extra mile because they care. Check them out at 1099 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt.


K’Syrah Catering is throwing a cocktail party on Nov. 22 from 6 p.m. to midnight. It’s an end-of-the-year wind down to celebrate getting out of this god-awful heat wave (hopefully?) and meet some new friends. Find out more at The venue is located at 478 4th Place, Solvang.

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