Experiencing the omakase at chef Shunji Nakao’s tree trunk sushi bar may be the closest one gets to eating in Captain Nemo’s quarters, where all sustenance is sourced from the sea in a novel procession of previously unseen shapes and forms. Nakao’s parade of dishes feel spirited straight from the surf, served in extraterrestrial landscapes and rich arrangements expressing unfamiliar but addictive new flavors.
Slicing sashimi to a slow jazz soundtrack, the Asanebo co-creator is a captivating, cool magnet for the eye, pulling a tangle of seaweed fine enough to stand in as a mermaid’s weave from a plastic box, rhythmically grasping and replacing a squeeze bottle of squid ink with the speed of a gunslinger holstering his pistols, and balancing a Voss vessel filled with a pinkish-orange vinegar, hypnotically straying our attentions from the comings and goings of the neighboring adult bookstore. The staggering seasonal beauty of each plate is marked by meticulous craftsmanship and adventurous adherence to outsourcing ingredients, offering West L.A. rare tastes of Japanese mountain peaches, kinki fish, and karaage made from live, freshwater unagi that the chef dispatches himself in the kitchen. Come take a look at last night’s $80, nine-course omakase at Shunji in our slide show look at the chef at work.