Shunji (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

Shunji Japanese Cuisine
12244 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Dining date: 1/21/17

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Shunji Nakao’s eponymous restaurant has been a sushi staple on the west side since opening in 2012. Nakao has been at the forefront of sushi in Los Angeles for decades since being one of the opening chefs of Matsuhisa. After Matsuhisa, Nakao has also been chef at notable restaurants Asanebo and The Hump.

I’ve been to Shunji once, for lunch, and had an enjoyable meal (it was a great value too). I was excited to come in for dinner and try a little more. We went with a sushi omakase, adding a few cooked dishes to begin with.

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Nomica (San Francisco, CA)

Nomica
2223 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114
Dining date: 12/24/16

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Nomica is a modern Japanese izakaya offering contemporary takes on Japanese drinking food. The menu has some intriguing menu items like gyoza-stuffed fried chicken wings, sous vide chicken karaage, and whole chicken baked in brioche. The restaurant was opened by the team behind Sushi Ran, a restaurant that has been serving Japanese cuisine in the Bay Area for over 30 years.

While the restaurant just opened in August, reviews have been mostly positive. My family and I came here for a Christmas Eve dinner.

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Shibumi (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

Shibumi
815 S Hill St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Dining date: 12/21/16

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I first dined at Shibumi in July very soon after the restaurant opened. The meal was very good, although the restaurant was still finding its stride. The restaurant has garnered some considerable praise since then. LA Times critic Jonathan Gold named it the second best restaurant in the city in October. Besha Rodell of the LA Weekly gave it 4 stars. The restaurant has been particularly popular in recent months given the praise, but I was able to snag a table over the holidays. I returned in to see how the food has evolved now that it’s been open for six months.

This was my first time sitting at the bar, providing an upfront view of the action. I definitely recommend requesting seats up here – it’s less intimate, but its a much more immersive dining experience.

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Sushiya (Tokyo, Japan)

Sushiya
6-3-7 Ginza 1F Yugen Bldg.
Chuo 104-0061 Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
Dining date: 11/2/16

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Sushiya came highly recommended from my friend Tomo as one of the popular up-and-coming sushi restaurants in the city. It’s a relatively new restaurant, having been open for only a couple of years, but has gotten a lot of attention from many food writers both in Tokyo and abroad. The chef here is 30-year old Takao Ishiyama who has worked at a couple of very highly-regarded sushi spots – Sushi Kanesaka and Sushi Saito.

Interestingly, none of the diners this evening were English-speaking. Chef Ishiyama’s English is very good, which is probably an additional draw for international visitors.

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Ishikawa (Tokyo, Japan)

Ishikawa
5-37 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo, Japan
Dining date: 11/1/16

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Ishikawa is one of the most highly regarded restaurants in Tokyo, known for its kaiseki dining. Here, diners are served a pre-fixed menu either at the counter or at a handful of private dining rooms. About a dozen small dishes are served in a careful progression featuring plenty of local seasonal ingredients for 22000 yen. I’ve dined at sister restaurant and fellow three-star restaurant Kohaku once before and had a great meal, so I was eagerly anticipating this one.

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Kikunoi (Kyoto, Japan)

Kikunoi Honten
Shimokawaracho, Higashiyama Ward
Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0825 Japan
Dining date: 10/29/16

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One of the most notable dining styles in Kyoto is a kaiseki meal, a traditional dining experience featuring individual small plates using local and seasonal ingredients (not unlike a western tasting menu). The presentation are often as intricate as the foods – everything is thoughtfully presented and made to look beautiful. While in Kyoto, I visited one of the most well-known examples of kaiseki at Michelin three-star Kikunoi.

Each party that dines here sits in one of the 11 private dining rooms with a view of the grounds’ scenery, creating a very unique experience. It felt, at first,  kind of weird being in a private room as a party of 2 but I quickly got used to it.

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