Shunji Japanese Cuisine (Santa Monica) Preview: A Pictorial Essay

Closing after almost a decade-long run at his West Los Angeles location (one which garnered him a Michelin star in 2019), Chef Shunji Nakao and his talented team have completed the relocation of Shunji Japanese Cuisine to new digs in Santa Monica! An impressive rebuild along Ocean Park Boulevard, this new restaurant location more closely mirrors the original vision held by Shunji-san.

Reflecting back upon 2020, Shunji-san says it was a tough year for everybody. With the suspension of dine-in business during that time, the restaurant tried to pivot to an outdoor format as well as offering takeout. But even during the hardship of surviving, as well as the prospect of moving to a new address, he never stopped dreaming about his cooking. While most of us were trying to figure out how to simply adjust to the new normal, Chef Shunji used the down time to conduct experimentation with new dishes, refining his already inimitable modern nihon-ryori style even further.

And this new iteration of Shunji Japanese Cuisine provides delicious proof that his hard work has paid off. Most of the dishes I tried during this preview tasting are brand new creations, conceived and brought to life in the test kitchen of Chef Shunji within the past year.

Birru… I was joined by intrepid veteran FTCers @CiaoBob and @chrishei, who came along for the ride for this, the inaugural preview dinner in Santa Monica!


Yamaimo/Uni/Quail Egg/Caviar… A base of mountain yam provides support for this “egg egg egg” appetizer - Splendid!

Shigoku Oyster/Shiro Negi/Ponzu… The fun textural interplay here sets this oyster dish apart from the usual presentation. The master returns!

Matsutake Mushroom/Egg/Winter Melon… This is definitely not your usual chawanmushi. I won’t reveal the spoiler of how this dish succeeds on so many levels here; rather I’ll just mention that this was a tremendous combination of flavors I had never tried before - Huge Bite!

Sake time!!! Tsuchida, from sake sommelier Yuko-san’s home prefecture. What a wonderful match for the meal!

“Ebi Shunji-yo”… Lightly prepared and seasoned shrimp paste, with a moat of umami-rich saikyo miso, this is a gorgeous mix of tastes. This is a fun interpretation of the classic Ebi Shinjyo. Huge Bite!

Prep for the upcoming course…

Hirame/Myoga/Iri-Sake… A bit of history, as Shunji-san explains that before the advent of shoyu in the 8th-Century, hirame was served with umeboshi and sake to bring out its gentle profile.

Neta to come…

Honmaguro Zuke… Lean bluefin tuna from Boston, aged to perfect complexity. Huge Bite!

Katsuo Tataki/Nori… Using “returning” bonito (modorikatsuo) which are fattened in the north and swimming south for autumn, this course was deep. Spectacular!

Ankimo Terrine/Toast… Oishi!!! I caught every fellow diner at the counter trying to clean the ramekin of every single morsel of this treasure from the sea. The only issue I noted with this whipped monkfish liver dish is that I was only given one piece of toast to scoop up the beautiful terrine. Huge Bite!

Kamo/Piman… Duck breast with fat cap pairs so well with Japanese bell pepper!

Shoga… Time for the start of sushi nigiri courses! Shari was of the highest level, something we’ve come to expect from an itamae of Shunji’s caliber: Pearly, with each grain yielding a satisfying bite.



Itoyori Dai…


More neta being sliced…

Tachiuo Kobujime…

Honmaguro Chutoro…

Shima Aji…


Buri Zuke…

Masu Zuke…

Honmaguro O-toro…

Preview of upcoming ingredients…

Ebi/Karasumi… Umami extreme! Incredible complexity between the chinmi and the sweet shrimp. Huge Bite. This begs for sake.

Ikura Gunkan… Perfect “pop” from each roe.


Toro Temaki… The roasted nori was supremely crunchy - So great! Huge Bite!


Kasutera Tamagoyaki…

Abura-Age/Enoko… Terrific way to finish off the sushi portion of dinner… Huge Bite.

Dessert time!!!

Hojicha Ice Cream/Japanese Kosui Pear… Housemade by Shunji-san, this ice cream is a frozen marvel.

The newest Santa Monica location of Shunji Japanese Cuisine represents a most triumphant return to form for Shuni-san and his team. Our preview meal, nearly flawless in pace, service and cuisine, was immensely satisfying. The numerous dishes which the chef debuted, some of which border on genius, demonstrate that he is still very much a vanguard of modern Japanese cuisine in the United States.

The main dining room features a counter (Shunji Bar) which seats seven (no tables). Omakase only - Two seatings will ultimately be offered per evening. In addition, on the other side of the sliding door, longtime sushi shokunin Miki-san, who has steadily built up a following of his own over the past years, will also offer the same omakase at his own counter (Miki Bar). Reservations for both Shunji Bar and Miki Bar will be via the Tock platform.

Dining at Shunji Japanese Cuisine takes guests on a sojourn to where concept, taste and texture are all meticulously curated and constantly dynamic. Shunji’s eponymous restaurant remains solid in its position among the top Japanese meals in Los Angeles.


Shunji Japanese Cuisine
3003 Ocean Park Bl.
Santa Monica, CA 90405


Why do they always try to fill you up on bread :wink:


hi @J_L,

nice report :slight_smile:
“huge bite” is the new :heart:
what’s the after-dinner fly / mosquito and noise / air pollution on ocean park blvd sitch like? and how does it compare to pico blvd?


Beautiful shots!

How many seats at the sushi bar? It looks smaller than the former location, or that could just be the angles of the pictures.

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Damn Shunji-San came back better and stronger than ever before. What a meal!

I remember my friend being blowned away by the tomato agedashi and variety of neta. Can’t wait to take him back here.


Thanks for the kind words! Seven seats at Shunji Bar, seven seats at Miki Bar. Definitely smaller more cozy than the Chili Bowl, since there are no more tables. The format will be omakase only.


RIP Shunji $45 lunch specials


LOL we’ve come full circle.

Sweet report @J_L. Thanks for sharing the preview.


Major Shunji upgrade - the Toto are now indoors - surprised @J_L didn’t take a shot!

There were absolutely skitters or smog to mar the fabulous meal, though not one single dish was piping hot. Actually the soup was almost piping hot.

So great. Ankimo also. And the perfection of Shunji’s Ikura is always a wonder.


Yes, use of the facilities now no longer require egress from the premises. The only photo I have of the restroom is the interesting(?) weaved basket located in an elevated bathroom nook, with pipes. #PipingALot


Almost sold out for the next 2 weeks…but not quite! :heart_eyes: Yay, I can’t wait!


@J_L is the restaurant divided in two? Do Shunji and Miki have their own bars? Tock sorta implies this… I can’t imagine the dishes served are different?
We love both chefs, but have been sitting with Miki since back in his Takao days.

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Great question. Yes, there are TWO separate sushi bars at the new Shunji location: Shunji Bar, staffed by Shunji-san himself, and Miki Bar, staffed by Miki-san himself. A partition will separate the two bars so as to minimize noise and create a more intimate feel (this can be removed if there is a full dual bar buyout). The cooked food portion of the omakase will all come from the same kitchen, with the latter sushi course being the portion which will be prepared by each respective chef. The goal here is to have more personal interaction during the meal experience, both with Shunji-san and with Miki-san (and between fellow patrons as well!).


I dig it! Thanks for the insight.


Who’s going to be the first to do a bang-bang?

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LOL - Already being discussed during our preview dinner. #AlsoKnownAsShunjiki


Thanks for the report as always @J_L . Is there any opportunity to order ALC after the set menu? I would guess “no” given the time limit (especially for the first seating). Also, given the appetites of those involved, we would have seen photo evidence of that already. :wink:


Another great question. I’ll try to find out for you… But man, I was truly stuffed and sated after the official end of the service. :slight_smile:

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Happy to say that Chef Shunji himself answered this one (and I quote): “I recommend second round.” :smiley:


Outstanding! Thank you.