Shunji, i can't remember if posted here before, but probably long, sufficce to say


#1

Located in a beyond iconic, distinctive circular edifice, stemming from its years as an

outpost of the chili bowl chain and later as a Mr. Cecil’s California Ribs location for over

a decade, Shunji has been doling out distinctive, complex, overwhelmingly, intricate yet

at times deceptively simple, but above all else delicious sushi and Japanese cooked dishes

for over two years now. Shunji has a way with a sushi knife to cut pure slabs of fish

down to prime morsels that pop with flavorful intensity when need be. His agedashi

tomato reminds one of luscious tomato jelly sent to heaven and back just for our

felicitous consumption.

He makes bleu cheese despisers become lovers in a matter of mere seconds due to his

incomparable bleu cheese and purple potato quenelles topped with dried persimmon,

which gives off the truest blue cheese flavor possible with none of the strident animal

pungency. Unlike myriad of his tyrannical sushi colleagues around town, he is

completely affable, gregarious, and takes customer requests as a point of pride. Yuko,

who manages the joint seamlessly, extends that natural friendliness and helpfulness by

treating first-timers and veteran regulars with the utmost care, catering to one’s every

need with a request for no octopus in an omakase or sushi only except for say shellfish in

a tasting menu.

The sushi counter is truly a place to be happy with cuts of fish not seen elsewhere from

blue fish to tiny ice fish collected together on top of rice wrapped with ultra-crisip nori to

simply steamed hanasaki crab (when in season). There is no standard refrigerator case

causing obstructed sight lines between chef and sushi lovers since the case has been

shifted to the right side of the bar underneath the cabinet where over a dozen artisanal

sakes stand tall.

His saucing specifically tailored to each fish. Even his vegetables are part of the locavore

movment and sourced from local farmer’s market. Red snapper sashimi in a vinegar cum

light ponzu water broth contains a bobby cherry tomato. But this is no ordinary tomato.

In contrast, it is quite extraordinary. The smoked tomato (how do they smoke it just so, a

pointe, if you will) on the outside fills your mouth with the sweetest, juicy, purest tomato

flavor as you bite into it reminding one of a tomato’s actual roots as a fruit, rather than a

vegetable.

Some of Shunji’s unique creations take home style cooking as its starting point and adds

novel flourishes, updating a simple earthy dish. A standard corn chawan mushi (light

Japanese custard) becomes something else with touches of a lobe of uni riding shotgun

amongst whispers of summer truffle shavings. And one can never get too much in the

way of truffle shavings. One dish even houses small though quite pungent bits of Sicilian

bottarga (dried mullet roe) which is usually more evident at your destination trattoria than

your neighborhood sushi bar.

A couple minor quibbles include the fact that your omakase repaste will most likely run

you a couple of C-notes per person before even a drop of sake enters the proverbial

equation. And true to its excessively modest chili bowl roots the outhouse is actually

located outside. What a concept.

Ultimately, Shunji will steal your breath away even with his desserts, namely his

chocolate mousse. A tiny pot of chocolate that is bittersweet, rich yet contrapuntally light

as the same time, and has the buttery mouth feel of a fine patisserie purveyed Parisian

mousse with none of the excess sweetness. Suffice to say, his banana ice cream is also a

paragon of the genre, which washes down quite nicely with his tiny, artfully crafted mugs

of hot green tea.


#2

a very kevin-forward review


#3

I’ll be returning to L.A. soon after five+ years away - your post gives me great hope, since my previous favorite (Shin, in the one-time Katsu location on Hillhurst in Los Feliz) is apparently gone with no forwarding. What part of town is Shunji in, please?


#4

West LA.


#5

It’s about 20 miles west of Hillhurst where shin used to be located. Or maybe more like 25 miles away. Which can amount to roughly an hour and a half or so in traffic. Hopefully you ain’t driving from fucking Los Feliz to West LA during rush hour.

And that ain’t no fucking joke.


#6

I will definitely case the joint while I apartment-hunt, especially since nowadays Los Feliz appears to be crammed with even way more fabulous kinder than I recall. Plus I’ve never liked schlepping crosstown, even if I am an off-hours eater. Thanks.


#7

I had one of the best sushi meals of my life there in March. It’ll be a must on every visit to LA.

Easily accessible by public transportation.


#8

“Wow - I must say - pontificating in verse can be quite exhilarating. Such poetic interplay between luscious morsels of edible delicacies and phrases of praise honoring these heavenly delectables has me floating above the clouds. The view is fu- uh - simply astonishing! The air is refreshingly brisk if I must say so myself!”

"Poet laureate Captain Kevin to bombardier: kind person of humble unassuming character, gargantuan yet erudite appetite and robust gift of profane adjectivications, if you would kindly open those massive bomb bay doors which cradle and behold those voluptuous enticing orbs of barbaristic bombastic wit.

Yes - I speak of the long forlorn F-bomb I do! It has been many many minutes of seemingly incalculable time of which I have withheld releasing the proverbial hounds. We must be of ready and steady state of mind where Id and ego are at a hair trigger detente. In the event that our noble services are called upon, we must be of good character and quick assessment - oh, a serious inquiry from a fellow Food Talk Centralian! We must respond to the poster-in-need!"

Analysis of inquiry, ready…steady…steady… On my count… Three.,.two…one… Release the F-bomb!!!
Yes - f-ing yes!!! Ah, it is so f-ing liberating me being f-ing me. And that ain’t no f-ing joke!!!

Nice post, kevin. It’s been a couple of years since my wife and I visited there. Shunji’s house sake of all things left a strong impression on me of how adept Shunji is at striking a balance in his house. He is also the master of all things tomato. I found the dailies on the board too compressed for easy reading so like many, I just left it up to him and thoroughly enjoyed our meal.