My favorite restaurant in Los Angeles, Shunji Japanese Cuisine, is once again ranked in the top ten of LA Times’ restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants list for the third straight year. It’s been a while since I’ve written up a meal at Shunji, I believe the last one was for our salmon-centric birthday lunch a year and a half ago, so I’ve been eager to share another Shunji experience on the blog. Fortunately, I had an exquisite dinner there recently that probably qualifies as my best meal of 2015, so I thought I’d close out the year with a write-up on it!
This particular meal was special because the (in)famous “kevin” of Chowhound fame would be trying Shunji’s famous truffle gohan for the first time. It’s a dish that had eluded kevin for the past few of years. This isn’t Shunji’s favorite dish to make, as it is expensive and time consuming, though as the consummate professional, he is glad to prepare it with advanced notice. We gathered up a decent number of people to split the truffle rice, and we made it a proper omakase experience, with Shunji taking us through a half dozen courses before the main attraction. Without further ado, here’s the entire progression of our meal, in pictures:
#1 - Suri Nagashi, puréed vegetable soup, w/shiitake, portobello, and white mushrooms, topped w/scallops:
#2 - Zensai, assorted small bites, w/sesame tofu topped w/buckwheat &
uni, ankimo mousse w/caviar, purple potato & blue cheese ball topped
w/dried persimmons, braised octopus, fresh persimmons w/sesame paste:
#3 - Tai (Red Snapper) & Tai Aspic Mini Hand Roll:
#4 - Sashimi of Shirauo (Icefish), Kuromaguro (Bluefin Tuna), Aona (Grouper),
Kanburi (Winter Yellowtail), Tai Kobujime (Kelp-Cured Red Snapper):
#5 - Namako Sunomono (Cucumber and Sea Cucumber Salad):
#6 - Chawanmushi (Steamed Egg Custard) w/Eggplant, Mushroom, Truffle, Shirako (Cod Milt):
#7 - Kakiyaki, Grilled Oyster:
Chef Shunji Nakao with the gohan, which already has some truffles mixed in, before he shaves even more truffles on top:
Shunji shaving a black perigord truffle on top of the burgundy truffle he had already shaved over the gohan:
Shunji showing off what I call the “tricolore truffle gohan” with freshly shaved alba, perigord, and burgundy truffles:
Truffle gohan served w/traditional sides: wagyu sukiyaki, miso soup, and the most amazing slow-cooked egg yolk:
Dessert: Housemade Lime and Yuzu Ice Cream
I had had the truffle gohan once before, but for this meal we were treated to what I dubbed the “tri-colore” truffle gohan. With three different kinds of truffles, the dish could easily have come off as indulgent or decadent, but Shunji is a master at balancing the ingredients in his dishes, and the bowl of rice was not over the top. Instead it was just exquisite and comforting.
While the gohan was definitely the star of the show, I have to say the chawanmushi with shirako (and yes, it had some truffles in it) was probably my favorite dish. Yes, insert jokes about eating fish sperm, but to all you uni lovers out there, you know you’re eating sea urchin gonads, right?
It’s been over a year since I’ve had anything resembling an omakase meal at Shunji. I usually do quick hits, a 12-piece lunch special here, a modest dinner there, to keep costs down. And while I’ve never forgotten how amazing the multi-course tastings are, I didn’t realize how much I had missed the experience. I gotta save up some money so I can do it again (not necessarily with the truffle gohan—I still need to watch my budget), and soon!
Shunji Japanese Cuisine
12244 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90064