Shunji & Los Angeles High-End Sushi Scene

Shunji is apart of the Los Angeles’ Michelin bloodline.  The restaurant’s head chef is Shunji Nakao; Shunji Nakao and his brother, Tetsuya Nakao, are the two masterminds behind the 2008-09 Michelin rated Asanebo in Studio City.  

Shunji Los Angeles
Shunji Nakao (right) and one of his apprentices
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The two brothers were the original chefs at Beverly Hill’s Matsuhisa.  However, after a few years, the two decided to venture out on their own with Asanebo then Shunji decided to venture out with his own self-titled restaurant, Shunji.  The restaurant is a very unassuming restaurant located just north of the 10 Freeway on Pico Blvd.

Shunji’s exterior screams divey.  It’s provides a contrast to Urasawa in Beverly Hills; however, Urasawa is about 3x more expensive than Shunji’s omakase menu.  Urasawa probably touts the most expensive tasting menu in the city.  Shunji is a more laid back dining experience compared to it.  Urasawa is known to be a stickler and a micro-manager regarding the pace of the meal and how it should be eaten.  This has turned off many patrons.  Shunji is a more relaxed and lively atmosphere with no more than 8 tables and a sushi bar.  The simple tables with its traditional Japanese wood sushi bar had me feeling comfortable as I sat and watch Chef Shunji Nakao showcase his skills.

Shunji Los Angeles
Shunji’s sushi bar

The service was exceptional and on the level of a Michelin rated restaurant.  The wait staff was very attentive and paid attention to the minor details of every dish served; also, they ensure your table setting was correct and ready for the next course.  The detail explanations of the courses were enough to give insight on preparation and origins.  However, it wasn’t long enough to put you to sleep like a bedtime story.

Now, the food.  I went with the omakase.  It consisted of about 20 courses with half being hot courses and the remaining being nigiri.  There’s a misconception with Shunji’s omakase and some have labeled it “Kaiseki”.  However, in true Kyoto Kaiseki form, Shunji’s omakase is not Kaiseki nor is it Nikkei nor Modern Kaiseki nor Edomae.  I’m going to touch mention my most memorable Shunji dishes only:

  1. Uni & Black Truffles:  The pungent aroma of the black truffles with the silky uni made the dish decadent once it was place in front of me.  The comforting texture of the egg custard was fantastic; the way it broke down on your palate and the soothing nature of the dish made it a highlight of the omakase.

    Shunji Los Angeles
    Uni & Black Truffles
  2. Japanese Barracuda:  The seared skin with it’s tender yet slight cooked flesh melted in my mouth.  The perfect rice temperature and it’s short grain rice made the fish breakdown on your palate with ease.  The light brush of the slight sweet soy sauce made it great.  Fantastically done, Chef Shunji.

    Shunji Los Angeles
    Japanese Barracuda
  3. Fried Oyster:  The oyster was presented in a half shell then the deep-fried oyster was wrapped with a slice of jamon iberico.  The oyster’s soft yet crispy batter with the salty yet chewy jamon provided a contrast between texture and flavor.  It provided depth.

    Shunji Los Angeles
    Fried Oyster
  4. Otoro: The Otoro was definitely one of the highlights of the omakase’s nigiri portion.  The fatty fish cut to precision to make sure it dissolved properly on your palate.  The sweet soy sauce with the combination of the fish melted in my mouth as I chewed away in sushi bliss.

    Shunji Los Angeles
    Otoro

Overall, Shunji is definitely one of the top sushi restaurants in Los Angeles in a town where top-tier sushi restaurants are abundant like the sunshine.  The traditional Japanese dishes with the almost perfect nigiri made me a fan of Shunji.  In addition, Chef Shunji is definitely an easy going guy and open to conversation.  I would highly recommend Shunji if you’re in the Los Angeles area.

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  • 8.5/10
    Service - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Presentation - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Flavors - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Decor - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Ambiance - 8/10
8.2/10

Summary

Shunji is apart of the Los Angeles’ Michelin bloodline. Shunji is definitely one of the top sushi restaurants in Los Angeles in a town where top-tier sushi restaurants are abundant like the sunshine. In addition, Chef Shunji is definitely an easy going guy and open to conversation.

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