No. 34: Shunji

West L.A.

Shunji Nakao is to hit sushi restaurants what Pharrell Williams is to hit singles. He was one of the first chefs at Matsuhisa in the 1980s, worked at the Hump in Santa Monica, and with his brother cofounded the beloved Asanebo. His finest performance, however, is happening at his eponymous restaurant on Pico, which is housed in a barrel-shaped former barbecue joint. Few chefs study the seasons more intently than Nakao, who is as likely to structure his elaborate omakase menus around purple asparagus as around succulent slices of golden-eye snapper. You may be entertained by a massive, squirming sweet shrimp, rubies of agedashi tomato “tofu” floating in dashi broth, or by Nakao himself. His jokes are as sharp as his knife.

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