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Shunji

Is there anything more LA than an incredible sushi restaurant in an old chili bowl?

SHUNJI

Location

12244 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, California

What to order

Tomato agedashi tofu, sushi

No one knows what Gillian Ferguson does, but we think it’s food-related?

This is the epitome of LA dining: an exquisite sushi restaurant housed in a giant stucco chili bowl situated a few car lengths from a freeway overpass. The building once housed a chain restaurant called the Chili Bowl, and it’s one of the last examples of programmatic architecture in LA (there is also a huge stucco tamale in East LA that is now a beauty salon).

There are a few dishes that are always on the menu, like the tomato agedashi, which you have to get, and the conch soup, which I like mostly because it comes to the table on fire. In season, you can get hairy crab, which you should splurge on at least once.

Otherwise I just put myself in the sushi chef’s hands and ask for however many pieces of sushi I can afford that day. (If you’re on a budget, go at lunch and order a sushi special.) If you’re at the counter and order the amaebi (sweet shrimp), the sushi chef will torture the shrimp in front of you at the bar, squeezing lemon juice on their recently gutted carcasses, causing their whiskers to dance in pain. It’s both sad and mesmerizing, and once they stop kicking, you get a choice of shrimp-head miso soup or deep-fried shrimp heads. I always go with the latter.

I prefer to sit at the counter, but the table service is nice too. You can get sake or beer, but I like their sweet potato shochu. The barley is good, too, if you like to drink toasty things.