I’ve made no bones about my love for Shunji Japanese Cuisine on Pico near Bundy. It was where I had my first omakase, and it’s a place that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to have both high quality sushi and fantastic cooked dishes. His amazing $80 kaiseki-esque omakase does not include a formal sushi course, but Shunji recently added a $50 sushi special that comes with 10 pieces of sushi of his choice and a hand roll. It is this special that I decided to try Tuesday night.
Oh, as the post title states, during my meal Shunji mentioned that he is hoping to start lunch service at some point in the not-too-distant future. He didn’t say when, but hopefully very soon!
I was curious if this sushi special would come all on one plate or if it would be served a piece at a time, as sushi omakase generally is. It ended up being somewhere in between, with three small plates of sushi and then the hand roll.
First up was a plate of four nigiri: hirame (halibut), isaki (grunt), kisu (Japanese whiting), kamasu (Japanese barracuda).
The hirame was topped with sea salt, yuzu, and bits of kelp. It had a delicate texture and subtle flavor that was accentuated rather than overshadowed by the seasoning.
Isaki is a very mild fish. It tasted very much like tai (red snapper) and was a nice, clean example of shiromi no sakana (white-fleshed fish).
I had had kisu previously at Shunji, and it has an interesting texture and flavor that’s hard to describe. It’s not as mild as tai or hirame or other shiromi no sakana, but it’s not as unctuous and deep-flavored like aji (Spanish mackerel) or iwashi (sardine) or other hikarimono (silver-skinned fish). I’m not sure which of the two groupings it’d fall under (I think the latter), but it was delicious in its own right.
The kamasu had a nice sear to it from the torching it received from Shunji. Its flavor and texture is a mixture of akami (lean tuna) and albacore.
Next was a plate of three pieces of tuna: honmaguro (bluefin tuna) akami (lean cut), chutoro (medium fatty tuna), and bintoro (albacore belly).
I had the best maguro sushi at Shunji on one of my first visits. The akami from honmaguro just seems to have a much deeper, more complex flavor than the more common varieties of tuna (yellowfin, big eye) served as sushi.
I assume the chutoro was a cut of the honmaguro, and it was just how chutoro should be, fatty and flavorful. It didn’t just completely melt in my mouth, which was fine with me, as I got to savor the fish for that much longer.
I had just had albacore belly at SUGARFISH last week, and while it was one of the better pieces of sushi from that meal, the albacore belly at Shunji blew it out of the water. It was extremely delicate without being mushy, and it did not have the chewy gristle that the pieces at SUGARFISH have.
The last plate held the last three pieces of sushi: sockeye salmon, kohada (gizzard shad), and uni (sea urchin).
The sockeye salmon was very different compared other salmon sushi that I’ve had. It had a more concentrated flavor, but at the same time was not as fatty, so the flavor didn’t overwhelm.
The kohada neta (the fish or other topping on a piece of nigiri) was braided beautifully and laid across the shari (sushi rice). It had that fatty-fishy taste that many hikarimono have in common.
The last piece of nigiri was the uni. I would have expected the uni to be served as gunkanmaki (strip of nori around the rice; literally “warship”) as it traditionally is, but each “leaf” of uni held together well, and it was a nice change of pace not to have the texture of the nori interfere with the chewing.
The last item of the meal was the toro temaki (hand roll).
I’ve said in my SUGARFISH review that I’m not a big fan of toro temaki. With the fish already chopped up, you don’t get the sensory experience of having a slice of fish melt in your mouth. Shunji’s execution was flawless, and the temaki was delicious, but in general it’s just not something that I’d go out of my way to order, from any sushi-ya.
The sushi special at Shunji was a success for me. I was concerned at first when I realized the pieces of sushi would not be served individually, as sushi should generally be consumed as close to immediately upon serving as possible, but the breakdown of plates worked well, and none of the fish seemed to suffered for it. The price is fair for the kind of fish that I got. If you’re not sure what sushi to get, or if you want to be able to try a variety of fish that Shunji has on hand, you could do worse than try the $50 sushi special.