Shojin Culver City
I wish I could have grabbed some better pictures here, but it was a long day and I couldn't get to Shojin until late. This was, hands down, one of the best executed meals I've had in years; the person behind the menu knows their craft and it shows. I was the only diner for most of the evening and the attention that brought was well received. My server's in depth suggestions based on my tastes were spot on, and he was able discuss the flavours and components of each dish at length.
The sushi is seared with a torch and that makes it the best sushi you'll probably ever eat. Imagine if someone behind a barbecue actually had their shit together enough to make sushi work (barbecue fanatics, sorry, but you are never as on top of the show as you think).
The miso caramelized onion soup was rich and almost meaty. All the goodness from that fermented soy! The crispy rice sprinkled over the centre is a brilliant idea, adding texture and a mellow toasted rice flavour.
Props for making me love a dish with beets (the crab cakes). Dear Shojin, I challenge you to make me love raw cucumber. If anyone can do it, I sincerely believe it's you. Okay, go. When I see the words "tofu" and "cheese" side by side on a menu, my tendency is to want to get the hell out of Dodge, but the crab cake wouldn't have worked without the tofu cheese crowning it.
Which brings me to an important point: Shojin is one of the few restaurants I've ever visited where every single component belongs. It's really sodding hard to not want to try cool techniques and experiment with new found and exciting ingredients when you cook, so to me one of the greatest talents of a chef is their comprehension of simplicity in the kitchen. I don't mean to sound as if I'm demeaning their skill or that the preparations aren't necessarily complex. What I'm trying to say about Shojin is if it doesn't need to be there then it isn't. Everything belongs. And it's presented to you exactly as it should be eaten.
If could pick one restaurant from the billion places I ate in LA to come to London, this would be it. WHY CAN'T WE HAVE NICE THINGS?