When AMA Sushi opened at the Rosewood Miramar Beach resort, I was in no rush to go because I don’t love sushi enough to justify paying a lot of money for it. But I do like other kinds of Japanese food, of which there’s a fair amount on the menu, and friends have said it’s possible to order à la carte without leaving hungry or breaking the bank.
AMA and I got off to a bumpy start when I received this text message a half hour before our reservation. I asked the two hosts what the point was, and they said they had no idea and that most people ignore it. One on hand, it’s funny and who cares? On the other hand, the more expensive the establishment, the more I expect from it. And as my husband likes to say when I complain about anything technological: just change the setting, babe.
AMA is off to the side of the Miramar’s main building, and you surely know by now that the hotel grounds are gorgeous. Omakase diners are seated inside, while most à la carte diners are out on the brick terrace overlooking the bocce courts. (There are also two tables and a four-seat bar inside where you can order à la carte.) While not quite as magical as under the San Ysidro Ranch’s canopy of loquats, the atmosphere is still pinch-me pretty and way better than a parklet. We found the furniture stylish and comfortable, and we liked the the lighting so much that between courses we went online and ordered two of the table lamps.
A few caveats: 1) We were fine on a misty night, but if conditions turned cooler, damper, or breezier, the heat lamps are unlikely to be enough; 2) sitting next to a bocce court is only OK if no one is playing bocce; and 3) the resort’s general music—including “U Got the Look” and “Part-Time Lover” on the night we went—overlaps with AMA’s lounge music to distracting effect.
I ordered the Boketto cocktail, made with gin, vermouth, verjus, elderflower liqueur, and something called “sakura fizz,” and I’d definitely recommend it.
Everyone we interacted with was friendly and professional. As is not uncommon outside big cities, however, you get the impression that the staff hasn’t been fortunate enough to patronize many ambitious restaurants, and the by-the-book training can lead to an awkward stiffness. For instance, when servers approach the table, they make a show of greeting customers by name. “Hello, Mr. Torkells!” said ours, looking at my husband, who did not take my name. Then she turned to me and smiled wanly.
We overordered, partly out of enthusiasm, partly because it’s a deductible expense, and partly because we didn’t know how large the portions are. The best dishes were the hirame crudo and shrimp tempura, but for every winner there was a disappointment (refrigerator-cold tamago tofu, overcooked scallops). Most of the food was somewhere in the middle—beautiful, but flavors never really popped.
As for the sushi, we ordered egg and uni sushi, an eel-avocado roll, a salmon roll, and a jalapeño hamachi roll. Like the food overall, it was… fine? And I still can’t tell you much about portion sizes, other than that they vary. The two rolls below are basically the same price, but one is twice as large.
Our bill came to $350 before tip. By cutting the $26 cocktail, $26 uni sushi, and some other $20 dish, we could easily have brought it down to $275—still special-occasion territory for us, but more acceptable, given that a double premium must be paid for being at a luxury resort in Montecito. Perhaps we’re not the only ones chafing at the prices: the omakase menu has been reduced from $185 to $165.
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