[This post is part of a series of reviews from my Winter 2014/15 trip to California]
I had been looking forward to our visit to Shojin for the duration of our trip since we had reserved it weeks in advance, so when I finally walked through the door of their Culver City location (a short drive from Santa Monica), I was hungry and ready to try as many dishes as possible.
Shojin is organic, vegan, macrobiotic, Japanese cuisine that is all gluten-free and their food (minus desserts) is nut-free. My friend Mason, who is allergic to fish, was very excited to eat sushi at a restaurant as he isn’t able otherwise, because of cross contamination with fish. Shojin were very eager and able to accommodate all of our group’s allergies and did ask for us to pre-order our appetizers as we were a group of 10. Their kitchen is small and they make everything to order it seems, so it’s definitely not fast, but we were sitting in the back, private room and were relaxed and having a great time.
We started with drinks – the adults with a bottle of sake, which is a Japanese wine made by fermenting rice, and the kids with various teas, lemonades and juices. As the appetizers started to be brought to the table, I really needed to keep consulting my menu to read what was in them, as there were many ingredients that I couldn’t identify and hadn’t tried before (combined with many familiar ingredients, like my favourite avocado!). Lotus root, hijiki and gobo were all new sounding to me, although gobo is burdock root, and I do enjoy the burdock burrito from Live in Toronto. Each was delicious and I especially liked the lotus root “chips” used to garnish a few of our sushi rolls.
The appetizers arrived as a torrent of goodness from the kitchen. They arrived one by one – everything from miso soup to crispy shiso gyoza (really awesmazing dumplings that we ended up ordering more and more of as the meal went on, since they were a favourite amongst the 6 kids). The Spicy “Tuna” on crispy rice was outstanding and such a great mix of flavours and textures that I ended up having 3 of 8 that were served. It was a rectangular shaped patty of crispy brown rice topped with spicy tofu, avocado and a sliced green chile that added the perfect colour and kick to each bite. The other shared appetizer that had great impact on our entire table was the Baked Scallop roll that they actually blow torched at the table. The “Scallop” is actually made from king oyster mushrooms. It’s a hijiki roll topped with eryngii mushroom and onions mixed with sweet miso mayo. Check out the video and pictures below of this dish.
My friend Ryan and I discussed the menu at length, before deciding on 3 sushi rolls to share. He is a pretty adventurous eater who also loves mushrooms, so it was fun to share the meal with him. All of their rolls are made from organic brown rice with no sugar added and they say so right on the menu. My suggestion is to try as many things as you can, and then I guarantee you will know what you like best for your second visit there! Make sure to try one of their entrees as well. They have pasta and even a mushroom and hijiki steak.
This is on the front of their menu, and I think it’s a great thing to share with you, as it impressed me very much.
“The food we offer is very different from the food in other restaurants. Are you wondering why? It’s not just a matter of whether it tastes good or bad. Before we even imagine the taste, we think about the health of our potential customers who will eat our food. Most restaurants use cheaper ingredients and unhealthy additives. Shojin’s first priority is our patron’s health when selecting ingredients and flavors. We carefully take time and consideration when creating our homemade dressings and sauces. It would be possible to offer less expensive food with cheaper ingredients, but at Shojin – this is not the case. Here at Shojin, we don’t care to make a profit if it is costing our patron’s health. Our pleasure is to know that our customers are healthy and happy.”
How great would it be if there were more restaurants like this in our world! I hope that you all have an opportunity to experience Shojin. If you know of other restaurants with this philosophy, I would love to know about them, please share!