Whenever we dine at Shojin, we always leave feeling happy. Like really, really, happy. No matter what we order, or how many times we've had a dish, we are always impressed with the beauty and taste of the dishes presented to us. Executive Chef Jun Matoshiro works continuously to create exciting new dishes based on the season, so we are always super eager to see what he comes up with. His latest 8-Course Tasting Menu, offered only at the Culver City location for a limited time, is not to be missed.
The Tasting Menu comes with an optional Dassai Sake pairing, which Ryan decided to get. We don't know much about sake, but our server explained that the differences are based on how finely the grains of rice are milled before brewing. She even brought out samples of rice used for each type of this premium sake. The first sake, Dassai 23, was served in a wine glass, so the aroma could be fully experienced and enjoyed.
Before the first course was brought out, we were each given a small Japanese-style mortar and pestle filled with toasted sesame seeds. We were asked to grind the seeds, as we would be adding them to a sauce for one of the dishes. It was fun grinding the seeds, and the pleasant aroma of the freshly crushed sesame seeds helped us anticipate the dishes to come. We were stunned by the presentation of the first course, the Kaiseki Plate. It consisted of seven different vegetable dishes, very artfully arranged. Each dish had a unique sauce and distinct flavor. There was a beautiful radish flower on one of the plates. We found out later that Chef Jun cut each of those flowers by hand! There must have been at least a hundred fine cuts...very impressive. Afterwards, I felt a little guilty about eating it because of the skill and effort needed to create it, but then I figured Chef Jun would want us to eat and enjoy it!
Two incredible appetizers courses came next (I seriously could have eaten a whole platter full of each), followed by the soup and a salad, both very tasty.
The two sushi courses were next. First up was the Sweet Eel Dragon Roll (don't worry...as Shojin is a 100% vegan restaurant, no eels or dragons were harmed in the making of this roll). This is a shiitake and avocado roll with a lotus "eel" filet on top, served with sweet soy sauce and sansyo pepper. The second roll was the Dynamite Roll...a Shojin classic. It's a spicy tofu and avocado roll, spicy mayo and green onion on top, served with spicy dynamite sauce.
The eighth course was a rich and savory vegetable stack served with a lovely garlic soy miso sauce. Like all the dishes in this tasting menu, this finale was both delicious and beautiful.
We decided to share an order of one of their new desserts, the Coconut Creme Carnival, which was a trio of three ice creams created by Pastry Chef Miwako Jones. There was Chocolate Avocado Almond (probably my fave, although all three flavors were wonderful), Green Tea, and Mango. These were super rich and creamy...perfect way to end our meal.
The 8-Course Tasting Menu is available for a limited time only at the Shojin Culver City location at 12406 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA, 90066, USA. At least a one-day advance reservation (can be done via email) is required for this special menu, and the cost is US$40 per person, plus an additional US$20 for the optional Sake Pairing. Shojin is near the corner of Washington and Centinela...look for a storefront with a golden lotus root painted on a white background.
This Tasting Menu is truly a remarkable dining experience, both for Shojin newbies as well as long time customers like ourselves.
Thanks for reading. Peace and love to all who live.