There’s no better way to enjoy sushi than omakase. A chef’s selection often yields the freshest fish and the most apprized dishes. Even at its worst, omakase will often provide a look at any kitchen’s most acclaimed bites and at least a small glimpse into the place’s culinary philosophy. At its best, omakase can be a symphonic expression, revealing a chef’s knowledge not only of flavor but of sequence and interplay. If each bite is a sentence or chapter, a proper menu is a novel — organized to deliver maximum impact from start to finish. Chef Yoshikazu “Kazu” Ebina’s omakase at his recently opened restaurant Sakaba is one such menu.
Located in the equally lavish Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch, Sakaba is decidedly upscale. The intimate restaurant feels like Tokyo, making cozy use of the available space. The indoor dining area allures with dim lighting and sumptuous tableware. The equally enticing patio is more casual, though no less impressive. The chef’s counter is only four seats and lends a personal view to Ebina’s neatly-structured kitchen. With hardly a cubicle’s worth of space, the virtuoso crafts an astonishing array of dishes with dance-like dexterity. As striking as the food is, watching Ebina work is no less inspiring. The reverence he has for the art of crafting sushi shows — his great hospitality narrowly masking his calculated expertise. With form and presentation both relying on restraint, the subtly-composed bites find a way to deliver outright indulgence with measured delicacy. To make matters even more decadent, an after-hours cigar lounge is available for further gratification.
Ebina was born in the Ginza district of Tokyo — famous for its array of Michelin-starred restaurants and the illustrious Tsukiji Fish Market. His family owned a restaurant, sparking in the young chef a culinary curiosity that has continued to inform his imaginative cooking. Prior to relocating to Sakaba, the chef enjoyed a decorated career in Miami — with tenures at Zuma, Makoto and Kuro. Most recently he acted as sushi chef at the Michelin-starred Azabu inside The Stanton in Miami Beach. Bringing over two decades of experience, Ebina’s approach gives due props to tradition while enhancing dishes with unmistakable individuality.
While some standard menu items will likely appear, Ebina’s omakase is tailored to the customer, both in advance and on the fly. Dishes like the wagyu uni slider — with brioche bread and shiso butter reveal the chef’s penchant for the splendid, with more traditional dishes like the sashimi four kinds — with toro, chutoro, Hokkaido scallops and spot prawn — relying more on fresh ingredients and expert cuts. Fish is flown in from Japan daily. Some nigiri is lightly pressed with Japanese charcoal, with a handheld torch making the occasional appearance. Desserts include soy ice cream and miso creme brulee. Ebina introduces each dish with great decorum, managing the difficult task of being informative without ever condescending.
The cocktails are no less riveting. The Snow Day ($18) is on the lighter side — combining sake, coconut milk, lemongrass syrup, mint and lime. Heavier beverages like the No More Yakai ($21) — with Woodford Reserve, Togarashi syrup, Angostura bitters and smoked sage — and the Winter in Jalisco ($27) — with Don Julio anejo, winter syrup, Cointreau and lime — are best paired with the meal’s heavier selections. A well-curated sake collection provides a better match for the more subtle bites.
While Sakaba certainly requires a bit of a trek and more than likely a special occasion, Ebina’s menu is worth it — delivering an experience that could easily be found in one of Jiro’s dreams.
Sakaba is located in the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch at 0130 Daybreak Ridge, Avon. It is open Tuesday – Sunday from 5 – 10 p.m.
All photography courtesy of Kelly Getchonis from The Photography Concierge.