Shirako Tofu in miso with rapeseed oil
Arugula Salad with Lobster, Beets, Japanese Pears, Blue Cheese
Cured Salmon, Bluefin, Red Grouper
Tomato Agadashi Tofu with Japanese Eggplant and Shishito Pepper
Squid, Squid Ink, Uni, Truffle, Quail Egg Yolk
Miso Mardinaded King Mackerel with Pickled Japanese Plum
Grilled Spaghetti Squash Dengaku with Dungeness Crab, Tempura Shrimp, Sweet Miso from Kyoto
Zucchini flower tempura stuffed with ama ebi with green tea salt
Steamed Black Cod with Mizuna, Enoki, and Shitake in kombu broth
Toro, Kampachi, Bonito, Kinmedai with homemade ginger
Blue Shrimp and Trigger Fish
Black Sesame Ice Cream
If there is anything I’ve learned about sushi restaurants over the years it is that if the chef offers an omakase and you have the time and the means it is most definitely in your best interest to put yourself in his/her hands and although I’ve had truly exemplary experiences at Taro and Kabuto, Shunji proved a whole different level when two friends and I opted to let chef Shunji Nakao prepare us a meal of both kitchen items and sashimi – ours the only table in the small restaurant that evening making this choice and thus rewarded with a number of truly unique and special items of which he seemed quite proud.
A former sushi-san at both Matsuhisa and Asanebo utilizing his longterm ties to source fish both fresh and exotic from both local and foreign markets but also well celebrated for his use of local vegetables in many dishes our night at 12244 West Pico ranged from sushi standards such as perfect fatty tuna and golden eye snapper to the esoteric with the presentation of wild caught Hawaiian Trigger; a fish I’ve never seen on a sushi menu but one I’d gladly see again…and yet while all of the fish quality was exquisite it was actually the kitchen courses that wowed the most.
Setting aside a truly bracing Milt Pudding whose creamy salinity prevented one of my co-diners from finishing his portion every single plate that followed was something to be experienced, explored, and savored – the sweet lobster meeting the bitter arugula head on with bleu cheese lending balance, the raw squid noodles silken on the tongue with egg yolk and uni a base note to intense truffle tones, and the tomato tofu one of the most impressive things I’ve tasted in 2013, the texture of tofu yet entirely tomato both in constituent and in flavor. Moving on to other flavors – both the spaghetti squash and the squash blossoms proved a starchy canvas to a duo of shrimp while both cooked fish, black cod and king mackerel, were lightly paired amongst the best preparations of either that I’ve ever tasted.
Admittedly having thus far avoided the temples of Masa or Urasawa, let alone Japan, with a bill arriving at a mere $100/pp before tax and tip I can only hope that Shunji continues to be just as it is – a truly unique omakase ‘destination’ in the least likely of spaces and at the least likely of prices.