Restaurant: Shunji [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
Location: 12244 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064. (310) 826-4737
Date: June 28, 2017
Cuisine: Japanese Sushi
Rating: First rate traditional sushi
A last minute cancelation changed up the Foodie Club dinner plans — so we gathered up some Burgundy and headed 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.
Fred brought: 1990 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut. BH 97. 1990 is one of my favorite vintages ever for this storied cuvée because while the vintage was on the riper side the high yields allowed the fruit to retain a very good level of acidity which made for balanced and ageworthy wines. While I have had the pleasure of tasting the ’90 on a number of occasions since its release, the last time was alongside the 1985 and the 1988, and as admirable as those two vintages are, the 1990 is head and shoulders above them to my taste. The fantastically complex nose is comprised of an abundance of yeast and toast characters that don’t completely dominate the essence of apple, pear, citrus, spice, acacia blossom and discreet orange peel scents. There is equally good depth to the delicious, full-bodied and powerful flavors that possess a lovely sense of vibrancy thanks to the still firm but fine mousse that shapes the delineated, delicious and impeccably well-balanced finale. In my view 1990 is one of the greatest vintages for this wine of the last 25 years and one that is still drinking well. While there is no additional upside development to be hand, neither is there any rush to drink up as this should continue to hold effortlessly for years to come.
Marinated vegetables and jellyfish. Before we went I predicted marinated vegetables and dashi gel — this pretty much qualifies. But it was pretty tasty in a sunomono way.
Ikura. Shunji’s salmon roe is unusually sweet and delicate. Lovely.
Goldfish sashimi with radish. Yep, goldfish. Mild, but nice.
Seasonal fig, cauliflower, and okra. On the right, Opal eye sashimi.
A trio of Toro (in the back), blue fin tuna, and chibiki. The last was unusual, all three were great.
Gorgonzola tofu, honey, and cherry tomato. I’ve never had gorgonzola tofu before. It totally worked. Nice soft texture.
From my cellar: 2004 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur. BH 94. This is a much different and classically styled with an ultra pure nose of ripe but austere green fruit brimming with oyster shell and seawater notes that introduce elegant, pure and sweet flavors all wrapped in a beautifully balanced and wonderfully detailed finish that also displays some austerity. This is built on a base of pungent minerality and will require ample time to come around. A Chablis lovers Chablis.
Fred brought: 2004 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot. BH 94. Fairly strong wood spice and vanilla presently mark the nose, framing the otherwise pretty white flower and floral aromas though there is plenty of mid-palate density to the rich, round, intense and powerful medium full flavors that despite the richness retain a fine sense of finishing detail. There is good minerality, buckets of dry extract and fine balance with almost painful intensity and superb finishing persistence.
Grilled ayu. A traditional sweet river fish of the smelt family. There was even an instructional video on how to debone it! Which actually helped. Delicious and sweet meat.
Our chef prepares the truffle rice.
Erick brought: 1978 Camille Giroud Beaune 1er Cru Grèves. 93 points. In fabulous shape.
From my cellar: 1997 Joseph Drouhin Romanée St. Vivant. 96 points. Bright shimmering ruby appearance in the glass. Ready from the moment opened, and didn’t really change much over the course of several hours. Enticing nose of red fruit and sweet grilled herbs, a touch perfumed as well. Great purity and class in the glass, with loads of mature Pinot flavors alongside a gentle smokiness that added heft to the wine. A great showing for the vintage, no doubt.
Truffle rice! Both white and black truffles. Very mild and lovely.
The egg notches up the truffle rice.
House-made ginger. I probably ate a pound.
Sweet lips. Ugly fish, tasted good.
Porgi. As you can see Shunji really knows his “white fish.”
Seki aji (premium Spanish mackerel).
A rare fish comes with a serial number!
Stone snapper or maybe sea ball belly.
Chu toro. Melt in your mouth delicious.
Tasmanian trout. Amazing, but like salmon.
O-toro. This bad boy was stunning.
Dueling uni. Santa Barbara on the left, Hokkaido on the right.
Seasonal fruit plate, includes mulberries!
Truffle ice cream and chocolate mouse.
All and all Shunji is rather fantastic, easily in 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. I prefer Shunji at the sushi bar with a smaller group — and more nigiri — which this awesome dinner bore out. Sometimes the (non sushi) vegetable dishes are a bit too subtle, even if I appreciate them for their delicate dashi-scented ways. But Shunji is a master of the white fish and he has an exceptionally wide variety of mouse watering nigiri.
Service is attentive and excellent. Be prepared to open up the wallet as this is premium sushi — in a completely different league than your average Spider Roll — particularly if you go for the truffle rice.