Shojin: Exquisite Vegan Sushi (and So Much More!)

For those who haven’t yet dined at Shojin (100% vegan restaurant with locations in Downtown Los Angeles and Culver City, CA), it might be hard to imagine vegan sushi that not only stands up to, but far surpasses non-vegan sushi in terms of flavor, balance, and beauty. But Shojin has done it. Ryan and I aren’t the only ones who believe this…the readers of The Los Angeles Times named Shojin the Best Japanese Restaurant in Los Angeles in 2012.  Not Best Vegan Japanese Restaurant…but just Best Japanese Restaurant, PERIOD. Just take a look…

 Crunchy Tiger, Hidden Dragon: BBQ Seitan, Tempura Asparagus, & Avocado Roll topped with Crunchy Tempura Batter, drizzled with Wasabi Mayo and Sweet Soy Sauce.

Crunchy Tiger, Hidden Dragon: BBQ Seitan, Tempura Asparagus, & Avocado Roll topped with Crunchy Tempura Batter, drizzled with Wasabi Mayo and Sweet Soy Sauce.

 Pumpkin Castle: Hijiki (sea vegetable) and Cucumber Roll, topped with Tempura Pumpkin, drizzled with Curry Mayo and Sweet Soy Sauce, garnished with Arugula.

Pumpkin Castle: Hijiki (sea vegetable) and Cucumber Roll, topped with Tempura Pumpkin, drizzled with Curry Mayo and Sweet Soy Sauce, garnished with Arugula.

 Garlic Eggplant Roll: Fried Tempeh and Avocado Roll topped with lightly sautéed Eggplant and a Garlic Miso Soy Sauce...served sizzling on a hot stone plate!

Garlic Eggplant Roll: Fried Tempeh and Avocado Roll topped with lightly sautéed Eggplant and a Garlic Miso Soy Sauce...served sizzling on a hot stone plate!

These are a few of the many remarkable sushi rolls created by Chef Jun Matoshiro at Shojin. Others include the Dynamite Roll, which is gently brûleéd with a torch just prior to serving (the subtle charred aroma rising from the platter is simply intoxicating);  the Rocky Mountain made with Tempura Shiitake Mushrooms and Green Onion on a Vegetable Roll with Sweet Soy Sauce and Wasabi Mayo; and the Baked "Scallop" (Eryngii) Roll served with a rich, creamy white sauce. Definitely NOT your run-of-the-mill sushi.

 Landscape of Japan: Braised Carrot and Burdock Root (Gobo) Roll, encased in thinly sliced Avocado and topped with an Enoki Mushroom Sauce .

Landscape of Japan: Braised Carrot and Burdock Root (Gobo) Roll, encased in thinly sliced Avocado and topped with an Enoki Mushroom Sauce .

One bit of information for Shojin first-timers…you will not find bottles of soy sauce or wasabi or mustard on the tables, nor will your server bring you any. Do not be alarmed. This might seem strange to some, but please remember that Shojin is a gourmet sushi and Japanese restaurant. You don't need to douse everything in soy sauce in order for it to have flavor.

Chef Jun Matoshiro is an extremely innovative and thoughtful chef. Every element of each roll is carefully selected for a reason. If the sushi needs soy sauce (whether ginger soy sauce, spicy chile soy sauce, balsamic soy sauce, tangy yuzu soy sauce, sweet miso soy sauce or something else), it will be included somewhere within the dish itself. If it needs wasabi, it will be there, in one form or another. If it’s something that people should adjust to their own taste, it will be served on the side. Nothing missing and nothing extraneous….this is what you get when you are served sushi at Shojin. So please give this humble yet amazing Chef the benefit of the doubt, and truly taste each dish as presented, before considering asking for additional condiments.

 Green Forest: Asparagus and Carrot Roll wrapped in Avocado slices, topped with Tempura Broccoli and Yuzu Citrus Mayo, served with Ginger Soy Sauce.

Green Forest: Asparagus and Carrot Roll wrapped in Avocado slices, topped with Tempura Broccoli and Yuzu Citrus Mayo, served with Ginger Soy Sauce.

 Black Volcano: Spicy "Tuna" (tofu) and Avocado Roll, topped with house-made Black Sesame Tahini Sauce and Spicy Chili Mayo, garnished with delicate threads of Cayenne Pepper.

Black Volcano: Spicy "Tuna" (tofu) and Avocado Roll, topped with house-made Black Sesame Tahini Sauce and Spicy Chili Mayo, garnished with delicate threads of Cayenne Pepper.

In addition to sushi, Shojin offers decadent appetizers, salads, ramen, entrees, and desserts, all wonderful (and to be covered in future blog posts). There is an elegant white tablecloth and candlelight ambiance in the evenings, but they manage to remain warm, welcoming, and unpretentious. They also offer an extensive selection of premium sake, Japanese beer, and wine. All of the servers are extremely gracious and pleasant.

This is one restaurant that should be on the bucket list of all sushi lovers, vegans, and really anyone who appreciates thoughtfully crafted food.

Thanks for reading. Peace and love to all who live.

Susan

Shojin’s downtown Los Angeles restaurant (phone 213-617-0305) is located at 333 S. Alameda (at 3rd Street) on the third floor inside the Little Tokyo Shopping Center. The Culver City restaurant (phone 310-390-0033) is at 12406 Washington Blvd (at Centinela; look for an entrance with a golden lotus root). Reservations are highly recommended, as both locations can get extremely crowded, especially on weekends.

Chef Jun has created a special menu for Valentine’s Day, which will be offered at both locations on Thursday, February 13 and Friday, February 14. They are currently taking reservations via their website, but don’t wait until the last minute because they often fill their reservations early for special holiday menus.

 Yellow Magic Orchestra: Pumpkin Tempura and Curry Spiced Tempeh on a Green Vegetable Roll, served with Japanese Karashi Mustard Sauce and Sweet Soy Sauce.

Yellow Magic Orchestra: Pumpkin Tempura and Curry Spiced Tempeh on a Green Vegetable Roll, served with Japanese Karashi Mustard Sauce and Sweet Soy Sauce.

 Five Colored Nigiri Sushi (Appetizer Course from the 2013 Mother's Day Prix Fixe Menu)

Five Colored Nigiri Sushi (Appetizer Course from the 2013 Mother's Day Prix Fixe Menu)