Hi all! Hope you are having a wonderful spring. I am completely backlogged on gluten free restaurant reviews, but….I will have a full month off from work soon SO I am planning to catch up on sharing my pretty great gluten free finds. Since I last posted, I have been on over 30 flights, numerous train rides, multiple countries, and all over the USA.
Today I am going to share my recent experience at Shojin in Los Angeles. Shojin is a 100% gluten free and vegan Japanese restaurant with two locations in the Los Angeles area. We visited the Culver City location (12406 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, 301-390-0033) but there is also a downtown Los Angeles location (3rd floor of Little Tokyo Shopping Center). This restaurant is macrobiotic as well. I am not vegan myself, as many of you know, but I have had quite a few vegan readers with celiac reach out to me about recommendations for gluten free vegan dining so I wanted to try Shojin. Plus it is 100% gluten free which makes me a very happy celiac!
Shojin also has tons of soy free, onion free, sesame free, and garlic free options—ALL CLEARLY LABELED RIGHT ON THE MENU! This would be great for those who need to limit their intake of these foods. Also, Shojin uses organic whenever possible and uses NO chemical preservatives, artificial color, or chemical seasonings!
Atmosphere: Cute and quaint! Shojin (at least in the Culver City location) is smaller and cozy. Be sure to make reservations if you plan to go on a Friday or Saturday night. The place is nicely decorated, clean, dimly lit (apologize in advance for the poor quality photos as the restaurant was really really dimly lit), romantic ambience. Casual dress was fine (not beachwear), but we did see some guests more dressed up.
Variety: 10/10! The ENTIRE menu is gluten free (and vegan) and changes regularly. There were pages of options to choose from. I loved how they had everything from sushi, to fried appetizers (and yes, since 100% gluten free, the fryer wasn’t a concern), to salads to desserts to noodle soups and so on and so on.
–Shojin Shiso Gyoza (Pan-fried vegetable shiso pot-stickers): my first time every having veggie potstickers!! I LOVED them and would order them again in a heartbeat. Their sauce was a gluten free soy sauce base with added flavor which complemented the Gyoza.
–Maitake Tempura with Truffle Salt: Ryan LOVED this dish! The salt paired so well with the fried maitake mushroom, which was cooked to perfection. I also would order this dish again!
–Green Forrest Sushi Roll (Avocado wrapped asparagus carrot roll with tempura broccoli and yuzu-pepper mayo): Okay…I will admit that I was a bit hesitant about vegan mayo but I couldn’t have been more wrong! MY GOODNESS THIS WAS DELICIOUS! All of the flavors and veggies packed into a tiny roll. The tempura broccoli was a phenomenal touch.
–The Art of the Craze: This veggie role had “Ikura caviar” and tartar sauce on top and was sucked with vegan chicken. Great taste, but the texture was odd so it was my least favorite dish.
Quality: 10/10! I typically order vegetarian sushi (Read: I always order veggie sushi because I’m terrified of food poisoning), but I have never tried vegan cream cheese or any vegan substitutes so I was excited to try something new! THIS RESTAURANT KNOWS HOW TO MAKE AMAZING FLAVORFUL DISHES! My fiancé and I LOVED every single thing we ordered. Nothing was bland or lacking. In fact, this was one of the most flavorful, delicious meals I have ever eaten. The blends of unique veggies, sauces, and seasonings really added to the meal and if I had an unlimited budget, I would have ordered even more to try.
Portion Size: 2/10…This is where the restaurant lacks a bit.. We ordered two appetizers and two meals (two sushi rolls) and were still not quite even close to full when we left. We then picked up dessert on the way home. Although the food was fantastic, the portion size was ever so tiny! And unless you have tons of money you want to spend (see the price section), it is hard to fill up on meals here. The restaurant recommends you order multiple main courses and appetizers and split them so we did follow their instructions. But we could have eaten 4 meals and 4 appetizers between the two of us to feel full.
Price: SUPER pricey! As I said, we ordered two main meals (two sushi dishes) and the total came out to close to $80 after tax (before tip!)….I get this is LA (hey, I’m going to be living there for now on!), but this is expensive even for LA for the amount of food you get.
Service: Not my favorite part. The restaurant was empty aside from one table when we arrived, but they made us wait 20 minutes to be seated…no idea why! Once seated, it took us about 15 minutes to track down someone to give us a menu even..another 20 minutes to wait for water. Mind you, the restaurant was not busy. Our food did come out rather quickly…but to track down anyone for more water, a check, questions, anything was truly difficult. Wait staff was not friendly and seemed bothered by everything.
Overall, if you are vegan and/or gluten free, I highly recommend Shojin when you want a delicious meal and have money to spare. This would be great for a special occasion or romantic date night. I love how this restaurant caters for other allergies or intolerances like onion, garlic, soy. Since Shojin is vegan, it is perfect for those with shellfish allergies too. I can’t speak highly enough of the quality, but I do wish the sizes were larger. My advice? Don’t come too too hungry (unless you can buy more food!), but this is a place I will return to with my vegetarian best friend or for a special date night. Above all else, this place is celiac safe and serves healthy yummy Japanese food.
Have you visited Shojin yet or any Japanese restaurant with celiac safe gluten free options? Would love to hear about your experiences!
**Please note that this review solely reflects my own honest opinion. I was neither paid nor compensated for my visit here. Also, kitchen protocols and menus can change at any time. Make sure to speak to the staff at any restaurant before eating to make sure that they can accommodate your dietary restriction.**