You park in the old ricketey lot with maybe space for a half dozen cars and enter the old Mr. Cecil's space, which amounts to a circular structure that used to house one of the Chili Bowl themed restaurant chains. It's a little jarring, but once inside it's serene and calm. And Shunji definitely has made it his own.
In fact, the sushi bar is an L-shaped bar with two cuttting boards for the preparation of dishes. There's no refrigerator case that is ubiquitous at the majority of sushi bars around town. Better to take a look at the conception and preparation of your dishes with an unobstructed view. That's a good sign in my book.
There is a double side printed menu and a separate list of fine sakes and a token Sapporo beer on draft. (Well, perhaps it's not a token since you rarely see Sapporo on tap).
After looking at the menu, I ordered the Omakase meal with a few requests such as the much heralded ankimo ball topped with caviar, the bleu cheese ball, and the soup with shaved foie gras.
According to my memory, the dishes are listed as follows:
Vegetable medley including lotus root and various types of squash.
Ankimo mouse ball topped with caviar, bleu cheese ball topped with dried persimmon, and sweet potato ball laced with black truffle.
Winter melon and sweet potato soup (more like a congee or rice porridge consistency) topped with shredded slivers of frozen, chilled foie gras.
Sashimi plate of kanpachi, blue fin tuna, and albacore.
Scallops in vinegar broth with arugula flowers.
An extra order of the ankimo ball with caviar
Soup with black cod and shittake mushrooms.
Bamboo and bamboo with sea urchin and cherrystone clam sauce. And squid "noodles" with sea urchin and black squid ink sauce and topped with a pristine quail egg.
Seared pompano sushi.
Red snapper sushi.
Marinated salmon sushi
Ikura (salmon eggs) sushi.
And a tiny plate of fresh fruit.
The ankimo mousse molded into a ball and topped with caviar is one of the best bites of monkfish liver I can ever seem to remember. The preparation and fluffy, smooth consistency was incomparable.
The bleu cheese ball was incredibly interesting and delicious and usually I'm not even a fan of bleu cheese. A mild bleu cheese flavor was there and the dried persimmon with it's appropriate sweetness cut the richness down to size.
You can probably see why I had to order an encore of the ankimo mousse ball.
The scallops were unlike others I have had and there was a bit of chewiness that I always seem to expect from scallops. An exceptional scallop dish.
The bamboo was redolent to me (who may never have had bamboo before) of a musky, earthy and delicious corn, fresh from the stalk.
I loved the refreshing chewy consistency of the jellyfish and the sauce and pickles fit it too a tee.
The vegetable medley was unique and delicious, especially those lotus roots, which I have only usually had at Chinese banquet restaurants.
The service was appropriately solicitous and the waitress described each dish succinctly and effectively after each was placed before me.
And chef Shunji was preparing all the dishes from the sushi to sashimi to the cooked dishes himself with the aide of almost no assistance, save for perhaps an assistant in the back who tends over the soups and desserts.
A great, delicious evening. An amazing cooking show. And an exceptional joint all around.
I do have to say that this is not the restaurant for someone who dabbles in sushi and raw seafood dishes.
And the price is sadly quite high. But most have already probably guessed that without me telling you. Yet, I have to say compared to sushi restaurants around town such as Mori or Zo, this is a far better deal, though it may not be a felicitous point of reference.
For others who were wondering, the omakase here has nothing to do with the set, prixe-fixe courses you would see at a Nozawa or his doting acolytes (who have taken his approach to sushi and ran with it over the years).
In sum, I would also say that the sushi at Shunji, while great, may not compete with other top sushi bars in town. That's not a problem though because the real goods here are the omakase meals here. And next time I will definitely go the path of an omakase that does not include any sushi.
Definitely check this place out before it gets too busy.
Thanks guys. And now sadly I'll have to go bankrupt again.