The majority of sushi restaurants around my area may be vegan-accommodating, but anything but vegan-friendly. The only options generally offered involve avocado rolls and cucumber rolls. With something so basic, it’s easily a disappointment in my view. For a much cheaper price, I could probably make a larger and healthier batch of cucumber and avocado rolls!
However, Shojin, a completely organic, plant-based (it’s completely vegan, but with an emphasis on healthy ingredients), macrobiotic, and gluten free restaurant of Japanese cuisine, has proven me otherwise. I did visit this amazing restaurant for the first time with a friend and had the most incredible experience!
I only got to try a fraction of their menu: the Evolution kelp noodle salad tasted really fresh and savory with the konnyaku noodles, tempeh, puffed grains, arugula, carrot, and radish, whereas the Dynamite roll with spicy tofu, avocado, vegan mayo, carrots, and a spicy beet sauce was….well, dynamite! I was instantly won over!
However, at the end of an incredibly wonderful, blissful, and food-filled meetup, seven of us decided to celebrate through an indulgent and fine-dining experience at Shojin, which I recommended to everyone who would attend. Despite us being full from all the other snacks we ate, we were stoked to try everything!
The service is very authentic–all of the kitchen staff are Japanese and treat their customers in that cultural etiquette. Very kind and serene, yet swift enough to ensure that your food comes perfectly. An important rule: all party members have to be present before the table is set up.
All of us were seated underneath a beautiful ceiling of lantern string lights in a romantic and intimate atmosphere, and we glimpsed at the menu, in awe of all the glorious dishes of the selection. They even serve ramen with a vegan egg! Insane, right? We ended up ordering eight rolls and sharing them family style!
This is the Kiss of the Spider Woman roll: wrapped in soy paper, it has tempura kabocha squash, enoki mushroom “soft crab”, avocado, daikon radish, asparagus, and vegan yuzu mayo. It was huge and only came in four pieces, so we ended up ordering two of these. Don’t worry, nothing was left behind!
Heavens, me! The Purple Treasure doll had to be one of my favorites! Not only was it TORCHED at our table, but the tahini miso eggplant looked and tasted just like a scallop! Insane, right?! The kale, asparagus, and carrot tasted so fresh with the brown rice and seaweed! I almost ordered another roll for takeout because it was that delicious!
Below the Kiss of the Spider Woman and the Purple Treasure rolls is the Crunchy Tiger! Sprinkled with crispy potato flakes and smothered in avocado and brown rice, this roll is filled with soy chicken, asparagus, and sweet tamari! A lot of us didn’t even believe it was vegan because of the filling! It was AMAZING!
Yes, all of us ended up picking the Dynamite Roll as well, and it is just as flavorful as I remembered. I almost had to light up fireworks to celebrate its deliciousness. The roll is filled with spicy tofu that looks like crab and avocado, and it’s topped with vegan spicy mayo while the plate is garnished with dynamite and spicy best sauce! The beet sauce was addictive and complemented the roll so well!
In light of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, this roll is known as Pirates of the Crunchy! It is topped with fried tempeh and gluten free tempura flakes with vegan spicy mayo weaved all over, and filled with cucumber, shiso, and avocado. I loved the crunchiness of the topping that mixed with the freshness of the actual roll. It’s a really fun one to try!
Aren’t these pictures on fire? Well, literary in one sense! I got to capture our server torching both our scallop rolls before digging in! The first in the back was the Spicy Baked Scallop roll, which had spicy tofu and avocado wrapped in seaweed and brown rice, and was topped with mushrooms and onions served with a deliciously dynamite sauce! The roll that I caught being torched was the Baked Scallop roll, which was pretty much identical to the first, except it was not spicy, it was wrapped in hijiki (a seaweed high in calcium!), and served with sweet tamari! I loved both of them so much, and they have to be in my top five favorite rolls!
Last and most certainly not least is the Crunchy Dynamite roll! It had a top layer of crispy potatoes, chopped cauliflower, and mashed avocado, and it was filled with fresh asparagus and carrot! Everything was served with tamari and the beet sauce, which complemented the rolls wonderfully! It definitely tasted more basic, so if that’s what you look for in a roll, you’ll love this one! I preferred the more innovative rolls, but this was still yummy!
Walking into the restaurant is almost like stepping into an extremely fancy hotel room. The music makes you want to sway, the lighting is dim, the paintings are exquisite, and the aromas are very warming and tranquilizing. My friends and I almost felt under-dressed!
You will NOT find any other sushi like what you see at Shojin. All of the rolls are made with organic ingredients, organic brown rice, and many are garlic free, sesame free, onion free, soy free, and/or nut free. Not only that, the rolls themselves have the most creative schemes–you won’t see any half-assed rolls here. Every dish has its own purpose. They are absolutely beautiful to take pictures of, awe over, and of course, are delicious to eat!
All of the restaurant staff–host, hostesses, waitresses, waiters, bus-boys, etc.–do their job in the best manner. Polite and mature, they always ensure that your experience is positive and peaceful. Unlike Western etiquette, they give you more space to enjoy your meal and company (if you are with one or more people); given the romantic and intimate atmosphere, it makes sense.
Fine-dining ambiences aren’t for everybody. Sometimes, I feel too lazy to wear a nice dress and heels for dinner, and I just want to call for Thai delivery. However, whenever I am in the mood to dress nicely, Shojin is the place for me.
Just like most sushi restaurants, rolls ain’t cheap. Each roll comes in at around $15-16, but you are getting your money’s worth. With that being said, these rolls are definitely not something you should be purchasing every day…unless you have the money to. Then by all means.
Similarly to the ambience, distant restaurant staff isn’t for everyone, either. You’ll have guests who want their waitress or waiter to make conversations or exude perkiness and humor. It’s simply not in the Eastern culture of this restaurant to do so. FYI, I’m not saying that this is what you’ll see in all authentic Japanese restaurants. This is only based on my visits at Shojin.