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First Review: SHUNJI'S (with photos)

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First Review: SHUNJI'S (with photos)

J.L. | Mar 24, 2011 03:28 AM

Shunji's is an exciting addition to the Melrose dining scene. Executive Chef Shunji Nakao began his stint in Los Angeles as one of the original chefs at Nobu Matsuhisa's iconic flagship restaurant on La Cienega Blvd. in the 1980s. Later, ever seeking to excel at his craft, Chef Shunji opened his own famed eatery, Asanebo, in Studio City. Shunji's represents his latest venture, having opened just 2 months ago.

For my first visit, I chose the signature Shunji's omakase.

(1) Starter: Mozuku (angel hair seaweed), with yamaimo age (grated Japanese mountain yam) and a marinated tomato... What a fantastic way to whet the palate!

(2) Trio of sashimi: Cooked tako (octopus) with sea salt, slightly seared tai (red snapper) with yuzu salt paste, and hirame (halibut) with mentaiko (spicy cod roe)... Really, really fresh tako - This went perfectly with the sea salt! The combination of the slightly smoked tai and yuzu was outstanding! The tasty mentaiko accompanied the gentle hirame very well.

(3) A mostly vegetable medley: Young steamed bamboo with flaked aonori (green seaweed) dipping broth, baby turnip stuffed with salmon & ankimo (monkfish liver) paste with ponzu, raw snow peas, cooked lotus, shiitake mushroom, and kabocha (Japanese pumpkin)... The bamboo, especially, is startlingly good - It has umami, pure and simple - Sheer poetry with the seaweed dipping sauce. Overall, this entire dish was artful and oishi beyond belief!

(4) Maguro (tuna) sashimi, with avocado, chile, baby daikon radish and slight soy sauce... Simple presentation, but intriguingly complex on the taste buds! The quality of the seafood hat Shunji’s was amongst the best I've had in L.A.

(5) Kanpachi (amberjack) with garlic chip, chive and shiro miso (white miso), drizzled with hot sesame oil... Fabulous.

(6) Purée of winter melon, yamaimo (Japanese mountain yam), topped with kani (crab) and nametake mushrooms, with a hotate (scallop) base... This original dish showcases the creativity of Shunji, and it was mighty yummy indeed.

(7) Tomato agedashi "tofu", with grilled nasu (eggplant) and shishito pepper... Another of Shunji's fusion creations, two entire tomatoes were pureed, compressed, and made into a gelée. Then it was "fried" agedashi tofu-style, with the end result being the same consistency as agedashi tofu, but with pure tomato, and not actually containing any tofu at all! Resting a pool of light dashi broth, this dish was absolutely incredible to behold and taste.

(8) Kaki fry (oyster tempura) with aonori (green seaweed), served with 3 salts: Sea salt, smoked salt, and green tea salt... Kaki tempura requires a tough balance - Too much frying, and the meat loses all moisture, becoming tough; too little frying, and not enough fry taste is imparted. These oysters, however, were perfect... Just perfect. And, each different salt revealed a different layer of the oyster's complexity.

Sushi time!!!

(9) Ika (squid) with shiso... So tender!

(10) Atlantic wild salmon, marinated, with smoked skin... Awesome.

(11) Asari miso (miso soup with clams)... Big clams, and lots of them! Great!

(12) Ebodai (pompano)... This was a new fish for me, as I've never eaten it as sushi before - It was superb.

(13) Ikura (salmon roe)... Super fresh, with each egg bursting gently in the mouth - Sublime.

(14) O-toro (fatty tuna belly)... Smooth, creamy, buttery, dreamy... The superlatives can go on and on...

(15) Kani temaki (blue crab hand roll)... My taste buds were happy with this one...

This was the end of the formal Shunji's omakase, but I was so impressed, I HAD to try some other dishes, so... Onwards to overtime!

(16) Botan ebi (giant sweet shrimp)... Fresh, glassy, and full of that unique botan ebi texture!

(17) Kanpyō (pickled gourd)... This was another new piece of sushi for me - A welcome vegetarian break!

(18) Fried botan ebi head... Again, excellent frying technique!

(19) The chef then opened on very large aoyagi (giant orange clam or surf clam) prepared 3 ways: Sashimi with sea salt, sashimi with yuzu salt paste, and spicy aoyagi miso (clam liver) in a cucumber roll with ponzu dipping sauce... I think aoyagi, in general, is somewhere between hotate (scallop) and mirugai (geoduck clam) in its texture... Delicious! Each method of preparation revealed a different texture and taste within this one single shell - A true revelation. It takes talent to make this properly.

(20) Tamago... House-made, to finish out the omakase - Really nice.

Gotta have some space for dessert!

(21) Dessert time!!! Green tea crème brûlée, with matcha biscotti and fresh seasonal fruits & berries... A delicate and tasteful way to end a memorable meal!

What a great introductory meal! Yes, I enjoyed every dish, and no, I have no vested interest whatsoever in this establishment. Best 4 dishes: Trio of sashimi, including the tako with sea salt, vegetable medley, with that hauntingly good young bamboo, tomato agedashi "tofu", and aoyagi clam 3 ways.

All in all - Shunji comes highly recommended. It is solidly on par with Kiriko and Kiyokawa. Please support Shunji’s, ‘cuz I wanna go back!

Shunji's
7015 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
323.933.6500
www.shunjis.com

-----
Matsuhisa
129 N La Cienega Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Asanebo
11941 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

Kiriko
11301 W Olympic Blvd Ste 102, Los Angeles, CA 90064

Shunji's
7015 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

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