I stopped by Shunji just because I was in the neighborhood. Having already had dinner, I wanted to just say a quick hello. Always the great hosts, Yuko-san and Shunji-san beckoned me to stay and chat for a bit.
And alas, there’s absolutely no way for me to resist the gravitational pull exerted by Shunji & crew’s famous cuisine. So I sat down and had a light meal. “Whatever’s in season right now” was the theme of this impromptu mini-dinner. Onto the food!
Sextet of Appetizers: Hotaru ika (firefly squid) with shiro miso, takenoko (young bamboo shoot) steamed with vegetable, pickled turnip with ocean trout, mochi with steamed shrimp, takenoko fish cake with yolk glaze, and grilled tachiuo (beltfish) with mustard… What can I say? All delicious, especially that bamboo/fish cake/yolk glaze, which was completely superb!
Honey-Gorgonzola Tofu with Cherry Tomato & Sake… This is a new creation from the kitchen. You eat the tomato and the tofu together, then chase it with a (recommended) shot of sake. To be fair, not all of Shunji’s past creations have hit it out of the park for me. But this one truly, truly does - Spectacular.
Leek, Spring Onion & Karasumi (Bottarga, or Mullet Roe)… Gently steamed in kombu dashi broth, these spring vegetables reach an achingly good level of tenderness that is hard to describe. Shunji-san has always been one of the most vegetable-adept sushi chefs I’ve known, and his skills are most definitely on display here.
And now, onto the nigiri!!! Need I say that the shari (sushi rice) was wonderful in all facets?
Gari (Sweet Pickled Ginger)…
Hata Kombu-jime (Grouper with Seaweed Marinade)… One of the meatier fishes of the evening, the grouper was quite a nice way to start off the nigiri.
Shiro Ebi (White Shrimp)… Always one of my favorite treats, these small shrimp may not look like much, but they are collectively sweet in their own way. It is unusual to see shiro ebi in U.S. sushi-yas.
Shirauo (Japanese Icefish)… From Shinji-ko (Lake Shinji, in Shimane Prefecture)… Another rare treat. These tiny, thin fishies possess a crunchiness that is so satisfying on bite.
Shunji-san showed me the label describing the provenance of the icefish…
Sakura Masu (Cherry Trout)… Another relative rarity in sushi bars, the cherry trout is salmon-like in appearance, except a touch more delicate in flavor.
Tai Shirako (Red Snapper Milt Sac) with Nikiri Sauce… Soft, with a taste closest in similarity to ankimo (monkfish liver), tai shirako is available only in spring, and is served with nikiri sauce to cut the richness a bit.
Ikura (Salmon Roe)… There was less salting for this batch of ikura, which resulted in an even fresher taste than usual. Texturally, theses eggs each “pop” in the mouth, an extremely pleasurable experience.
Hamaguri (Hard Clam) with Nikiri Sauce… Boiled and served with nikiri sauce; many sushi eaters outside Japan may not commonly encounter this shellfish.
Tea is served…
Dessert Platter: Mixed Berry Sorbet, Oroblanco Grapefruit Sorbet, Truffle Ice Cream, Hoji-cha (Roasted Tea) Ice Cream, with Seasonal Fruits (Blood Orange, Ataulfo Mango, Raspberry, Blackberry, Blueberry, Viva Elisa Strawberry, Persian Mulberry & White Mulberry)… The truffle ice cream alone is worth the price of admission.
The fruits are all impeccably curated by Shunji-san. They are all supremely, mouthwateringly fantastic!
The spring omakase at Shunji Japanese Cuisine includes some inventive new cooked dishes, expertly prepared veggies, hard-to-find yet tasty neta, and fruits at the height of season. Shunji-san may be a jovial, easy-going guy in demeanor, but make no mistake - This itamae takes his work seriously, and delivers the goods night after night.
Shunji Japanese Cuisine
12244 W. Pico Bl.
Los Angeles, CA 90064