Thursday, January 7, 2016

Restaurant Review: Shojin in Los Angeles, CA

Can you believe I've never dined at Shojin, the premiere vegan sushi restaurant in SoCal?! I can hardly believe it myself! I was finally able to get there for lunch on my birthday last weekend. Shojin is all vegan and offers organic Japanese cuisine. Besides being vegan, many of their items are gluten-free and they can cater to other food allergies as well. It has two locations - the one I visited is in downtown LA, the other is in Culver City. The interesting thing about the one I visited in DTLA is that it is inside a Korean shopping mall! Once we parked in the adjacent parking structure (Shojin will validate for 2 hours, parking gets a bit pricey after that), we wandered past karaoke bars, Korean BBQ places, Daiso, etc. before heading up to the third floor where Shojin is located.

The dining room was busy, but not completely full at 1 PM on a Saturday. We were seated, and the hostess and the servers were so proper and polite - pulling out chairs, placing the cloth napkins in our laps, putting away purses in their clever under-the-seat baskets (every restaurant should do that, seriously!) - it made me feel so fancy and special!

We took some time to browse the menu, which has a mouth-watering selection of appetizers, salads, ramen, sushi rolls, soups, and drinks. Since we were celebrating, I ordered myself a vegan Prosecco from LaMarca. It was perfect to kick off the meal!

To start, we ordered Spicy "Tuna" on Crispy Rice ("spicy tofu, avocado, and chili on fried brown rice crackers - 4 pcs $11") and Spicy Rock Shiitake Tempura ("tempura shiitake mushrooms with spicy wasabi mayo - $9"). I LOVED the spicy "tuna" - it had fabulous flavor and texture! The spicy rock shiitake tempura was delicious too, and I loved the kick of wasabi mayo on it!

For the sushi rolls, we ended up ordering three to share, mainly based on recommendations from our friend who joined us and is a Shojin expert (they know her by name and know exactly how to prepare the rolls to her liking!). First up was the Crunchy Tiger, Hidden Dragon roll, with BBQ seitan, tempura asparagus, avocado, crispy potato served with wasabi mayo and sweet tamari sauce ($14). This roll was excellent, and I loved the crispy topping that gave it a great texture!

Next was the Pirates of the Crunchy 2.0 roll, which featured fried tempeh and gluten-free tempura flakes mixed with spicy mayo on cucumber, shiso and avocado roll, served with dynamite sauce ($15). Note: we asked them to omit the shiso leaf per my friend's request. WOW, this roll was seriously amazing! Like, "I wish we had ordered a few more orders just of this cuz I could eat it all day long" amazing! The flavors were fantastic, with just the right amount of heat. I really liked the dynamite sauce as well.

I couldn't resist ordering the Kiss of the Spider Woman roll, based on the name alone! It was a soft-shell "crab" roll mixed with enoki mushrooms, yuzu mayo, pumpkin tempura, asparagus, kaiware daikon radish sprouts, avocado wrapped with soy paper, served with a chia yuzu ponzu sauce ($15). This one had an interesting and unique flavor - Mister Spooky liked it a lot, especially with the ponzu sauce.

I couldn't go without ordering dessert, so I tried the tiramisu and cannoli ($11). Both the tiramisu and cannoli were surprisingly good! The cannoli had a light pistachio filling that was very tasty, and a very crispy outside shell. The only thing I didn't like was the marmalade that dolloped on at one end. The tiramisu was tasty as well, and I liked that it was not too overpowering in flavor.

My first experience at Shojin was extremely positive, and I would go back in a heartbeat. The staff is extremely friendly, poised, helpful, polite, and they just make you feel pampered and special. And the food is alone is worthy of return trips - I can't wait to try more items on their menu! And I'm just going to be dreaming and drooling over their Crunchy Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Pirates of the Crunchy rolls until I can get my hands on them again!

For more information, including hours, address, and full menus, please visit Shojin's website!

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