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
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
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.