One month after its opening there were already two opposing whispers on Shunji’s style. There are kaiseki lovers who deem Shunji as a worthy omakase,before and sashimi geeks labeling Shunji as a cooking cook, not a sushi itamae. Some thought there weren’t enough interesting specimen of fish interjected among the 8 courses. Though unconfirmed, a Chowhound announced Shunji decided to remove the remaining sushi course from the $80
omakase kaiseki two weeks ago. Shunji-san’s move is an economic one — Westsiders (and LA as a whole) demand uni and toro. There are those who could care less for either, which is not the same as not enjoying either, but Shunji’s $80 omakase could not carry the burden of bespoken seasonal delicate takiawase/futamono/yakimono from a traditional kaiseki, and still afford the diners outrageous cuts of fatty otoro/exorbitant globs of uni. What is the compromise, then? Separate the 2 elements:
[ hover over pictures for course descriptions, click through for enlarged photos ]
On the left is the cooked omakase, which Shunji is now mostly doing. On the right is the sashimi specific omakase, which was individually requested. No nigiri, just sashimi. On top of that, mostly hikari mono — because you hope your daughter will be able to eats non-farmed fresh sashimi 20 years from now. There are a couple of dishes missing from the pictorial (the sakizuke of jellyfish, cucumber, daikon, a cooked shell fish course for kaiseki, black sesame ice cream dessert for the kaiseki). But the take-away is this: Shunji, at this infant stage, before the flood of Nipponphiles invade — though Bon App did just name it one of the best new Japanese restaurants — will customize the user experience. There may be not extraordinary hikari mono, but what few fish is offered will bring quality, and they will be treated with care (reference the braided kohada on Shunji’s facebook page). Don’t like ponzu? Tell him you want the fishes straight up with negi/shoga combo. Be specific and he’ll share his father’s smuggled in Japanese yuzu. Enjoy him for what he is, and ease up the comparisons to the rest of the town. Though, since everyone needs a point of reference, think of Shunji’s omakase as a more elaborate version of Kiyokawa.
Also noteworthy: the itamae-diner relationship at Shunji is unrivaled in LA. At Zo/Mori/Kiyokawa, the visitor’s sightline to the chef is interrupted by Hoshizaki reach-ins. This is a universal truth for Los Angeles (barring Urasawa?). Shunji’s fish fridges are simply not there. They’re there, but “NOT THERE”. That alone, brings an intimate and transformational culinary treat as one observes the chef’s every movement. Think of it as “Jiro’s Live”. Go now, before the throbbing masses kill the joy.
NB: Don’t expect a new sign. Don’t complain about the signage. The circular building originally housed the infamous Chili Bowl chain. The signage is just as old, which presents remodeling challenges.
12244 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
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