Sushi in Belize: Placencia Now Has A New Sushi Restaurant

by Megan Rodden

In recent years, the Placencia Peninsula has slowly but surely built a reputation as a foodie’s destination of sorts within the country’s culinary scene.  Many talented chefs hone their skills here, perfecting traditional recipes or experimenting with innovative new dishes.  From Thai to Italian, Garifuna to Tex-Mex, high-end resort restaurants and humble roadside stands, Placencia has it all.  The dining scene here is dynamic with chefs often changing their menus each season. A common, overarching theme for most is sourcing fresh local ingredients in an ethical and sustainable manner.  Bringing his passion and prowess to the peninsula this year is popular sushi chef, Toshiya Tsujimoto, with his new restaurant in the village, Koi.

Toshiya Tsujimoto’s Move to Belize

Photo Credit: Koi Sushi Placencia

The gregarious and engaging Toshiya Tsujimoto was born in Japan and spent a number of years trotting the globe before coming to Belize.  His love of Japanese cuisine is matched by his love of people, travel, and discovery.  While backpacking across North America as a young man, Toshi became enamored with the seaside city of San Francisco, California.  It was here that he had the good fortune of stumbling upon a Help-Wanted Ad in a Japanese-American newspaper looking for chefs. 

Photo Courtesy Mahogany Bay

This stroke of luck turned into a 5-year apprenticeship and a skill that would carry him around the world.  After successfully opening his own restaurant with friends in California, Toshi’s wanderlust overtook him once again and he relocated to Europe.  With his knife set and sushi mat as his constant companions, Toshi likes to say he was a Chef-Without-Borders traveling Eurasia while practicing his culinary skills.  The next location to capture his heart was the small island nation of Malta in the Mediterranean.  He loved the intimacy and charm of living in a small place and that heavily influenced his decisions when scouting a location for his next move.

Similar: Where To Celebrate International Sushi Day in Belize

Belize wasn’t initially on his list of locales; in fact, he’d never heard of the country before and only discovered it on Google Maps when he was researching Tulum and Playa Del Carmen.  His internet sleuthing and curiosity fortuitously led him south of those Mexican hotspots to the lively but lesser-known Ambergris Caye. 

Photo courtesy of Jyoto Sushi Belize (@toshiyabelize)

It must have been destiny because Hilton’s Mahogany Bay Resort immediately implored him to open an Asian-inspired eatery in their newly constructed resort and residences village.  With the meteoric success of JYOTO, his first sushi restaurant in Belize, Toshi became one of the most recognizable and beloved names in the country’s culinary scene.

Sushi (And More) in Belize

Toshiya went on to open Belize’s first (and only) noodle bar, 501 Ramen, on San Pedro’s bustling Front Street as well as a late-night sushi restaurant downtown.  The unprecedented and unexpected events of a global pandemic shifted Toshi’s priorities, as it did for many people in small and large ways. 

Photo courtesy of Jyoto Sushi

Operating under travel bans, curfews, and other restrictions forced restaurateurs to adjust and adapt, and it was during this period that he really assessed his goals and recognized what was in his heart. And that was that Belize was not just his present but his future as well.  An African proverb became his mantra: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”  The unmarried master sushi chef who spent years on the go all over the globe has put down roots here by the Caribbean Sea and has begun gathering and growing his tribe.

Similar: 5 Places To Grab Sushi When In San Pedro, Belize

Toshiya delights in sharing the skill and artistry of sushi making with other Belizean chefs and collaborating on culinary creations.  His seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm is contagious, as evident by the buoyant nature of the staff at each of his restaurants.  Placencia residents and visitors are overjoyed to have the addition of Koi Sushi Bar in the heart of the village on Main Street, upstairs from Tutti Frutti’s gelato shop. 

Koi is open every day, aside from Wednesdays, from 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm.  Expect all the Japanese classics recreated for Belize with the local catch of the day shining in sashimi, nigiri, and sushi rolls.  Enjoy a traditional tea, Japanese whiskey, or one of the creative sake cocktails and savor the flavors of this intimate and elevated dining experience.  It was a convoluted and circuitous route, but finally, Placencia has a Japanese master sushi chef restaurant.

Photos courtesy of Toshiya Tsujimoto and Koi Sushi Placencia.

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