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Kai Sushi Shabu-Shabu
738 State St, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 560-8777

  • Category: Japanese
  • Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11:30pm, Sun 1pm-10:30pm
  • Price: $10 - $20
  • Serving: Lunch & Dinner
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Reviews by the General Public

Good quality sushi
Reviewer: Sylvie from Santa Barbara, CA
Kai's Sushi is a great place to relax and enjoy some very unique sushi rolls. The Kamakazi, Dynamite Roll and EEl roll were delicious. Service was terrific. The rolls are not tiny, like at Arigato's, and a good value. I will definitely be visiting again soon.

Tasty fresh food Good service
Reviewer: Dee Wingo from Santa Barbara, CA
Last night I went to Restaurant Kai Shabu Shabu. The beef was paper thin and beautifully marbled,the portions were generous and the veggies crisp. We enjoyed the dragon and tuna rolls. Even my finicky eater was pleased with his California roll and chicken Teriyaki. The prices were not cheap but they are reasonable for an upscale Japanese restaurant located in the heart of downtown. The place was not very full and our server was attentive, but not hovering.

Really Good Food and Service
Reviewer: Glenn from Buellton
The waiter was extremely nice. To me the food was really good and comparable to Sakana w/o the cramped atmosphere. They have tables all the way to the back including outdoor seating. They have a sushi bar and a shabu shabu bar which is basically a japanese hot pot that you can dip food into to cook it. Similar but not the same to sukiyaki apparently(more savory and less sweet than sukiyaki). Much less crowded than Arigato. Can park at Paseo Nuevo and across the street on State.

Room for improvement
Reviewer: Brendon Gerrard from Santa Barbara, CA
Went to Kai for a birthday dinner with some friends, requested a 'patio' table as it was a nice summer night. Unfortunately, the patio is a few tables with plastic lawn chairs which have seen better days. The bigger problem is that it is so far from the main dining area that we maybe saw our server once every half hour. She was polite, just not readily available. There is plenty of variety on the menu, but the quality does not match the price. For six people the bill was every bit as large as a typical visit to Arigato, but unfortunately, the food was lacking the same execution. It was ok, but if you are looking for value for money, this is not the place to go...

Just get the sukiyaki
Reviewer: Cat banely from Santa Barbara, CA
The sukiyaki here is some of the best I have ever had. Absolutely amazing. Every thing else is passable. Just get the sukiyaki.

Poor service !
Reviewer: Viet Pham from Santa Barbara, CA
The waitress was so rude!!!... We just asked about the bill but she got angry and left..... We just want to know more clearly .... She treated the customers badly.... She thought that we didn't understand the bill and her answer!!!!.... She doesn't have capacity for working in restaurant and hospitality industry!!!!

I never considered going here. That all changed
Reviewer: David from Santa Barbara, CA
My friends had Shabu Shabu, for the first time, in the Bay Area and liked it. I've had it plenty before but wouldn't dream of seeking it out in SB. Let's face it - SB has problems with anything that is not run of the mill food. I wouldn't expect excellent Filipino food here, why would I try Shabu? Turns out that Kai Sushi offers it. That scared me even more because Kai is not a place anyone goes for Japanese. I have never been there and I don't know a single person that has. It just doesn't come up. Well, we braved it and went and you know what? It was great. The service is top notch and the Shabu was good. I supplemented the meal with seaweed salad and albacore nigiri and that was legit too. Color me impressed

old fish, ill traind sushi chef
Reviewer: Richard from Santa Barbara, CA
My family went to Kai after a weekday movie downtown. Kai has been around for years. We went to his Montecito location several times. We had sushi. All the pieces smelled like fish. The yellowtail had sauce on it to mask the smell and mushy feel. The sushi chef probably was slicing ham last week. He was gruff and didn't speak English very well. He certainly was not Japanese. The drink waitress was pleasant, but not attentive.

Like Eating Sushi in Tijuana
Reviewer: Brian from Santa Barbara, CA
Weird title, I know, but this was what I was thinking the whole time I was there sitting at the sushi bar. The same kind of careless service, funky smells, and mediocre food you would expect in a Tijuana tourist restaurant catering to gringos, complete with mostly native Spanish-speaking staff. This may offend some people, but when I go to a sushi bar, I expect to see at least one Japanese-looking person behind the sushi bar. Call me overly traditional or a "sushi snob" but I had a really hard time believing that the guys making our sushi had any serious training other than watching someone else make sushi for a while. The usual "artfulness" of sushi making was completely missing. Watching them handle everything with bare hands and not washing between different operations was unsettling as well. The table tents describing the offerings were filthy, the sushi was slapped together hastily, and the service at the bar was gruff and unfriendly. I happen to speak Spanish (and am often confused for a native Mexican because of my accent), and when I tried conversing with one of the guys behind the counter in his native language (he had been carrying on a lengthy conversation in Spanish with his co-workers and the people next to us) he acted like he didn't understand me. I repeated myself three times in Spanish, then finally in English before he acknowledged my question and gave me a terse answer in heavily accented English. So much for my attempt to bridge the cultural divide... I will definitely not return, and I don't recommend that you try this place. Maybe their Montecito location is better, but other than one of the hostesses who smiled and was attentive, this place was a zero-star joint in my book.

Overpriced and poor service
Reviewer: Janet from Santa Barbara, CA
We stood at the door for about 10 minutes before being seated. The restaurant was only moderately busy. It was 15 minutes before we got menues. Our beverages came fairly quickly but the rest was all downhill. One of our party didn't get even their soup until the rest of us were almost done eating and they ordered a tempura dinner. Tempura does not take long to prepare! The portions were small and over priced. The food was just average. The most and friendlest attention we got fromt the staff was when we left. Even the sushi chefs said good-by. We won't be going back to Kai.

Poor Service - Poor Layout and Low Quality Amenities
Reviewer: Mario from Santa Barbara, CA
I ate at this restaurant Kai around 7 times. I tried to give it as much of a chance as I could. First of all, the service is really poor. You typically have to wait quite a while and most of the time have to flag down a worker to get any attention. The restaurant is very narrow and all of the tables leading to the back are adjacent to the bathroom where the opening and closing of that door causes quite unpleasant odors to come out at times similar to having a seat on a plane next to the toilet. In the bathroom it's hard to even wash your hands because after you push down the button the water comes out just for a second or so like you get at a beach toilet. You will be served water in giant plastic cups that you would expect to get in a hospital cafeteria. The owner is a good sushi chef, but his self trained help is unathentic. If you go, call to see if the owner will be present first and sit at the sushi bar. It is like a different place when he is gone. The others are relatively friendly, but mediocre at best. Arigato is a classy place. The two cannot be compared. I will not return. Sushi is a typically high end meal for me and I expect to be able to wash my hands without having to dart my hands down under the tap at high speed and be served water with a quality glass, not cheap plastic when shelling out that kind of money. The sunimono salad is watery and tasteless. Don't bother asking for a nice hot steaming towel, they don't have those. No more for me. Thanks, Mario

Reviewer: peter from santa barbara,ca
I like the food of Kai,but i really don't like the service.i had dinner with my friends,one japanese waitress served us at that night,she is very rude,unrespected to us,it made me mad. i saw that already had a lot of customers complained about her, why can she still be there? the owner should be think about that.

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