A Fresh Approach

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This hidden gem offers some of the freshest sushi in town with astounding views to boot.

By Bria Balliet | Photos by Jody Tiongco


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San Shi Go’s 27-seat sushi bar is one of the largest in town.

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Thinly sliced yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno sauce (left) and the baked halibut roll

San Shi Go’s location on the third level of the Village Faire outdoor center may be slightly difficult to find, but this Laguna Beach staple is well worth the effort.

Opened in 1990, San Shi Go—meaning “three four five” in Japanese—has built itself a loyal following over its 24 years in operation, and it’s easy to see why. The charming outpost is truly a sushi lover’s dream. Its 27-seat sushi bar is one of the largest in town and allows patrons to watch the eatery’s talented chefs whip up their orders right before their eyes. Alternatively, guests who prefer more natural scenery may choose to chow down in the dining room, which boasts large windows that offer views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. “I think it’s one of the best views in town,” says manager and sushi chef Koichi Sakamoto.

Koichi has been at San Shi Go since its inception and brings more than 30 years of experience to the table. His passion for his work becomes evident as soon as you taste his dishes, and even more glaringly apparent when you chat with him. “I love creating the dish,” he shares. “I sometimes dream about it.”

Koichi’s dreams of sushi are realized in the delicious fare offered at San Shi Go. To get a true sense of the restaurant’s quality ingredients, try the yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno. Expertly sliced yellowtail is topped with homemade jalapeno sauce and a thin sliver of pepper for added kick. Or, for tuna lovers, the albacore sashimi with crispy chips offers savory flavor with a hint of garlic. Both dishes’ limited ingredients allow the clean flavors of the fish to be showcased, and the freshness speaks for itself.

Those who prefer their seafood in a more cylindrical form will be pleased by the vast number of sushi rolls listed on the menu. One of the lightest and most refreshing is the salmon lemon roll. Filled with avocado, cucumber and carrots, the veggie-packed roll is topped with fresh salmon and a paper-thin slice of lemon. The result is tangy, clean and healthy. Or, for a new and exciting option, try one of the eatery’s Cajun-spiced rolls. The Backflip roll’s combination of spicy tuna, Cajun-seared tuna, ponzu and red chili sauce is spicy and smoky with a hint of sweetness. “After you take a bite, you want to do a backflip,” Koichi says.

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The Backflip roll combines spicy and Cajun-seared tunas.

To complement their meals, patrons love to wash down their dishes with sake. Favorites include Sho Chiku Bai Ginjo, a fruity selection, and Ozeki Karatamba, a drier option.

No matter which dishes they choose, guests will be thrilled with the array of flavors, the friendly service and the gorgeous scenery that San Shi Go has to offer. Here’s to another 24 years. LBM

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