Restaurant: Shunji [1, 2, 3, 4]
Location: 12244 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064. (310) 826-4737
Date: February 6, 2016
Cuisine: Japanese Sushi
Rating: First rate traditional sushi
Some of my cousins wanted sushi so we resorted to a bit of shock and awe — going out for Shunji’s omakase!
Shunji, which took over for the “Mr. Cecil’s BBQ” in this oddball looking building on Pico has developed quite a reputation.
At night, Shunji offers an amazing and advanced mix of traditional and modern raw and cooked dishes.
Chef Shunji Nakao was an opening chef at Matsuhisa in the day, then opened Asanebo, then The Hump (one of my old favorites). It has quickly risen to the top of the LA Japanese scene.
From my cellar: 1998 Nikolaihof Riesling Federspiel Steinriesler. 90 points. “Riesler” is an archaic term for Riesling. Saahs wanted to see how a wine might age in cask without sulfur if it were an ordinary and not a grand wine to begin with. The first example was a glorious 1999, offered two years ago. So what do they do for an encore? Offer something even older. This is a masterpiece of time, nature and instinct. Less “humble” than that ‘99 was, and more insanely, dauntingly complex. I could detail its three paragraphs worth of nuance if I had 40 minutes to study it. Let’s just say, a perfect positive oxidation, a whole encyclopedia of wild flowers and herbs, a mélange of every possible salt, and the gentlest note of allspice and pink peppercorn.
From my cellar: 2000 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis 1er Cru La Forest. Burghound 92. Almost always the best 1er in the Dauvissat portfolio and this displays real energy as it explodes from the glass with detailed green fruit notes and detailed and delineated medium weight flavors that are so pure they seem cut directly from liquid rock, all wrapped in a presently tight and austere but not closed finish. At 7 years of age, this is still on the way up and there is absolutely no rush to drink up, indeed I would suggest that 2010 will see this at its peak, where it should hold for some years. This would give many a grand cru a run for its money. Beautiful juice and aging slowly toward something very special though it could be drunk now with pleasure. Multiple, and consistent, notes.
agavin: a great bottle, mature and complex with a nice Chablis acidic finish.
Vegetable puree with crispy onion and crab. I’d guess the vegetable was eggplant or something similar. There was a dashi base giving it that vaguely fishy (in a good way) extremely Japanese vibe. Soft texture and very pleasant.
Bites and slurps. Left to right. Marinated baby eel, with a fabulous sweet and tangy marinate. Pickled bamboo shoots, nice and crisp. Brussel sprout. Marinated tomato. The purple ball was potato and gorgonzola cheese with some cured persimmon (very interesting and nice). The orange ball was monkfish liver with caviar, super rich.
Oyster soup. One of those classic Japanese light broths with two oysters. Yum.
Cod sperm mousse. Yes, again with the cod sperm, this time mixed with tofu to make a creme brulee-like confection.
Sashimi. I’m not sure of all the specific fishes here, but they were delightfully fresh.
Tomato tofu. This Shunji classic is a block of sticky tomato paste made from 5 Japanese tomatoes. It has been glommed together into a tofu-like texture with a mild but very fresh tomato taste and topped with a shiso pepper. It was pretty good, even by tomato-hater standards.
Sukiyaki with pickled egg and smoked pickles. A lovely bite of classic (tasting) sukiyaki. The egg and pickles were eaten with the truffle rice below.
Miso marinated cod. The Kyoto “classic”.
I’ve been wanting to try the truffle rice for a long time, so finally got an opportunity to place this special preorder.
The seasoned rice gets truffles shaved on it.
Not one, not two, but three types! Southern French black, white, and Burgundy truffles!
Mixed up it is eaten with the pickled egg and radish. Delicious and highly aromatic.
the first flight of sushi. Not sure of all the fish. Some kind of toro, baracuda, uni, and a few others. All soft, and exquisite.
Special house marinated ginger. I’m a ginger fiend and this was amazing stuff. Super potent too like ultra concentrated ginger beer.
Sushi round two. Included chu-toro (amazing), kampachi, and other wonders.
A sashimi version of the same fish.
Roasted mild traditional tea.
A round of homemade desserts. The red is mixed berry sorbet. The brown chocolate mousse (very strong and good), and the rightmost pink orange ice cream. The sorbets and ice cream have that fresh intense flavor, but a texture more like a granite, not the smooth mouth-feel I go for in my own gelatti and sorbetti.
All and all Shunji is rather fantastic, joining the large repertoire of top LA sushi restaurants. This was a really great take on sushi kaiseki style dishes, combining both innovations with a solid grounding in traditional Japanese flavors and seasonal ingredients. There was some really unusual stuff too (sperm!) and it all tasted fabulous. The nigiri was also top flight, with a lot of exotic fish and at the peak of freshness. Great great stuff. When you sit at the sushi bar like this talking to the chef, you always get the best stuff too — although the restaurant was mobbed and all the great plates making their way out into the room looked amazing.
The truffle rice was pretty awesome too!