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Chef Ambrely Ouimette’s Omakase Pop-Up Hits East Village

The longtime San Diego chef's newest concept will run eight nights a month with seats for just 10 guests
Omakase by Ambrely San Diego Japanese sushi pop-up by chef Ambrely Ouimette
Courtesy of Omakase by Ambrely

Chef Ambrely Ouimette believes San Diego cuisine is poised to get bigger—bigger than we’ve ever been. “San Diego is on the cusp of being a culinary adventure,” she says. “I see so many cool people doing so many interesting and unique things… It’s an exciting time.” 

She’s ready to help push it forward. Ouimette has worked in San Diego before, including Ironside Fish & Oyster in Little Italy, Saiko Sushi in Coronado, and Cannonball in Mission Beach. She’s a classically trained chef who’s honed her sushi skills for nearly 20 years, working behind the sushi bar at Matsuhisa Denver (yes, that chef Nobu Matsuhisa) and Sushi | Bar in Austin, Chicago, Dallas, and Miami. According to her estimate, she commanded waiting lists of up to 20,000 people. And she’s back in town.

Omakase by Ambrely San Diego Japanese sushi pop-up by chef Ambrely Ouimette
Courtesy of Omakase by Ambrely

Omakase by Ambrely is her new pop-up series at Hive Sushi Lounge in East Village, formerly called Calypso Omakase. Each month, eight nights, 16 courses, and 10 seats are available per night. For $195 per person, there are no substitutions or requests—just trust and surprise.

“I wouldn’t say the order is super traditional, but it is somewhat traditional,” she explains. There’s nigiri, there’s sashimi. I’m doing crudo, kind of Italian-style, steamed egg—chawanmushi—things like that. I think it’s a very beautiful menu.”

Ouimette says the ever-changing menu will focus on seasonal ingredients and local produce but primarily rooted in whatever she’s excited about (and can get) at the time. Fermentation will also play a significant role, with her homemade misos, soy sauces, vinegar, and other accouterments helping to shape the experience.

She laughs as she tries to describe her vision, recalling a male chef who said women shouldn’t be in professional kitchens because they’re too emotional.

“Food without emotion is the worst thing you can do!” she exclaims, adding that she wants to keep the experience intimate so guests can still feel that connection. “My dream has always been to have a neighborhood kind of spot—still have omakase, but honestly? Like The Friendly, but as a sushi bar.”

Omakase by Ambrely San Diego Japanese sushi pop-up by chef Ambrely Ouimette
Courtesy of Omakase by Ambrely

Omakase is only just starting to catch on around San Diego, and Ouimette believes it’s the perfect time to launch her own take on it and partner up with Hive and other interested collaborators to establish local roots. “All these omakases are so new… I’m different enough from everybody and able to stand beside them, as far as the traditional aspect and the training behind it, but really showing my personality and creating that experience.” She adds that she’d like to open her brick-and-mortar eventually but plans to focus on pop-ups, catering, and private events. 

Ouimette will release the next month’s schedule on Tock on the first of every previous month so that July reservations will open on June 1. A few seats remain for June, but she says they’re going fast. 

“I’m just excited to see where this adventure goes,” she says. “I love to bring people out of their comfort zones, so I hope everybody comes and checks it out.”

Courtesy of Olivewood Gardens

San Diego Restaurant News & Food Events

Olivewood Gardens Hosts The Seedling Soirée on June 1

National City-based nonprofit Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center is one of the few local advocacy groups committed to teaching future generations to nurture and protect our shared world. On Saturday, June 1, they’re hosting their annual Seedling Soirée fundraiser to continue their mission. They will feature guest chefs that include Phillip Esteban (White Rice), Logan Mitchell (The Cellar Door), David Sims (Kingfisher), Joe Bower (Finca), and many more. Tickets for the event are available here, and donations to their cause are always accepted.

Liberty Public Market Launches Their Summer Cocktail Series

From May 24 through September 2, Mess Hall Bar at Liberty Public Market will offer a variety of three different rotating cocktail options every month, each created by various Market vendors. From “You Had Me at Ube” by White Rice (May 24 – June 30) to “French Like Emily” by Baker & Olive (July 1 – July 31) and “Fight Like Mariko” by The Sushi Stand (August 1 – September 2), there will be spritzes, piña coladas, spicy margaritas, and more. 

Sunny Side Kitchen in Escondido ranked as one of the Best Restaurants in San Diego by Yelp in 2024 featuring an egg sandwhich
Courtesy of Sunny Side Kitchen

Beth’s Bites

Booze Brothers Brewing Company just closed the only brewery taproom in Fallbrook, but they promise a new location is coming to the same area sometime this summer. Boo for a sudden closure, but also, hooray for new beginnings.

Graze by Sam The Cooking Guy is out; Basta! is in. The Little Italy Food Hall outpost is rebranding and will reopen this summer as an East Coast Italian-inspired eatery, with the celebrity chef still at the helm. 

Yelp recently dropped its list of the top 100 restaurants in the United States for 2024. On the list are four San Diego area eateries: Sunny Side Kitchen in Escondido (#3), Crafted Greens in El Cajon (#16), Rosemarie’s Burgers in Mission Beach (#40), and Peace Pies in Encinitas and Ocean Beach (#53). 

Have breaking news, exciting scoops, or great stories about new San Diego restaurants or the city’s food scene? Send your pitches to [email protected].

By Beth Demmon

Beth Demmon is an award-winning writer and podcaster whose work regularly appears in national outlets and San Diego Magazine. Her first book, The Beer Lover's Guide to Cider, is now available. Find out more on

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