Restaurant: Shunji [1, 2, 3, 4]
Location: 12244 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064. (310) 826-4737
Date: September 30, 2016
Cuisine: Japanese Sushi
Rating: First rate traditional sushi
My parents and some friends wanted sushi — so out we go 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: 2013 Zardetto Prosecco di Conegliano Zeta. Just a touch sweet, very food friendly.
Eggplant mouse. One of those vegetable purees, presumably mixed with dashi. Had a cool, slightly slimey texture and an oh so Japanese vibe. Not the most approachable.
House made flavored tofu (can’t remember the flavor) with some kind of gel.
Uni caviar ball, steamed sea creature, shrimp, octopus.
Pickled celery. Marinated tomato.
From my cellar: 2006 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses.. BH 94. The touch of wood spice this displayed last year has now been completely integrated though the original anise, clove and saline notes remain to add nuance to the pretty and elegant mix of white and yellow fruit aromas that introduce round and generous flavors that offer up real volume and mid-palate density, all wrapped around a firm acid spine on the refined, pure and explosive finish. This is positively stunning, certainly in an absolute sense but particularly so in the context of the vintage. One to look for and like the Valmur, this almost vibrates with an underlying sense of energy.
Some kind of very mellow Japanese broth with bits of fish and mushroom. You squeeze the yuzu in too and pour it into the little cup.
Live Halibut! A rather impressive but disturbing bit of dinner theater. This poor guy was still alive (or at least gasping) as we ate his yummy sashimi flesh. Bits of his skin had been fried so they curled up all chewy too.
A close up. Too bad I didn’t shoot the video of him in “action.” It was so sad we had the fish taken away and returned with the meat only.
From my cellar: 2011 Prager Riesling Smaragd Wachstum Bodenstein. VM 92. Initially reminiscent of slate and fresh rain, the nose evolves toward apricot and peach fruit along with caraway seed and lemongrass. Bracing lively acidity gives a weightless quality to the intense flavors of yellow plum, wild spice and abundant minerals. Seductive and stylish, with noteworthy grip and persistence, this is an excellent 2011. Some may prefer it, but the lower alcohol and marvelous freshness speak for 2012 as the slightly better of these two excellent rieslings.
Snapper in slime. A bit of raw snapper in a goopy sauce that reminded me of gefilte fish.
Vegetables and seared fish. Perfectly crispy marinated vegetables of different textures and a bit of seared fish with two sauces.
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.
Wagyu, uni, caviar, truffle. Yum yum!
Mushrooms and squid? Hard to remember but this was a great dish with interesting texture and woodsy notes.
Sushi. Includes snapper, toro, salmon, mackerel, and uni.
Traditional toasted tea.
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. While this was a good meal, I prefer Shunji at the sushi bar with a smaller group — and possibly more nigiri. Many of the items tonight had that very subtle Japanese flavor profile. Shunji, although modern, is less “punched up” than many LA sushi houses with much less reliance on acid (a.k.a. vinegar) and other “flashier” flavors.