The servers are cagey at Shunji, chef Shunji Nakao’s round restaurant in a former West LA rib joint by the I-10 on-ramp. During a recent dinner, whenever I asked questions about how certain dishes were made, my server would quickly rattle off a couple of the most obvious ingredients and end her sentence with “some other things.” This got to be a running joke. Still, it’s hard to begrudge Chef Shunji and his staff for maintaining a veil of secrecy surrounding some of his most impressive dishes. However, his signature Tomato Agedashi Tofu ($9) remains my favorite dish, and probably the biggest head scratcher.
Agedashi Tofu, creamy bricks of deep-fried tofu served in dashi broth, has become famous at restaurants like Raku in Las Vegas. In Shunji’s hands, the “tofu” is actually made from tomato. Five tomatoes to be exact, formed into a square and blistered on the outside, creating sticky, delectable caramelization. The “tofu” rested in a shallow pool of savory broth. On top, Shunji placed a single eggplant medallion and a mild shishito pepper. Was the tomato’s consistency anything like tofu? Hardly, but Shunji’s tomato agedashi tofu is still a sensational dish.