Special to the Valley News
“Would you like to be seated at the sushi bar, grill or the dining area?” asked a hostess at Shogun Japanese restaurant. Unfamiliar with the restaurant’s elaborate layout, we decided on the dining area, “good for cozy conversation.” We walked down the long hallway past bamboo trees, turned a corner at the warbling “river rock” floor fountain, and walked into a spacious dining area.
“Irasshaimase!” our hostess announced loudly and the chefs at the sushi bar greeted us with a traditionally thunderous Japanese saying that means “welcome”. Shogun means “leader” in Japanese. Shogun Japanese Restaurant’s founder and owner, Bruce Kanenobu, opened its original Pasadena location in 1980. Shogun now has five other locations in Southern California and is clearly aiming for the leadership position in the industry. Its Temecula location opened in the ring around the Promenade Mall in 2007. Striking large murals showcasing Japanese traditional costumes enhance the textured bamboo wallpapered walls. Clean-cut dark wood furniture, complimented by a vigilant row of glowing lamps that encircles the sushi bar at the center, sets an organized tone to Shogun’s geometrically pleasing décor.
When it comes to seating, there are several areas to choose from. The sushi bar is located at the heart of the dining hall. There intricately made dishes revolve directly before you in a fascinating spread of color and pattern. You can observe Shogun’s highly trained sushi chefs show off their skills as they make long sushi rolls and then carefully arrange them on a platter in a shape of a dragon, splattering patterns of ponzu or eel sauces over them. Select one of Shogun’s many sushi menu items or request a specialty roll.
Japanese cuisine is known for its care in choosing the freshest ingredients and its impeccable presentation of food. We were not disappointed. Miso soup, with large seaweed leaves and tiny bits of silken tofu, was aromatic and the right amount of salty; crunchy house salad was well paired with a robust ginger dressing. Vegetable Sushi Rolls – eight round slices wrapped in seaweed, rice and sprinkled with sesame seeds, stuffed with avocado, cucumber, carrots and asparagus were served with a traditional side of wasabi and pickled ginger. One can also choose a house roll where all the same ingredients come wrapped in seaweed shaped like a cone.
Shogun’s Vegetable Tempura had larger than life slices of onions, carrots, potatoes, squash, broccoli, asparagus and a nice juicy mushroom dipped in remarkably light batter that doesn’t steal from the vegetables’ natural flavor and texture – all fried to a crispy perfection. Shogun’s sushi also boasts Crunchy Dragon Roll – shrimp tempura, covered with crispy tempura batter and spicy tuna; a Mexican Roll – spicy Kani-Kama crab, cucumber with avocado and Shogun special spicy sauce; or a Shogun Roll – shrimp tempura roll with soy paper topped with an assortment of diced premium fish selection and served with sweet eel sauce, creamy goma dressing and masago.
But, according to Shogun’s manager, Amelia Paago, what makes Shogun stand out among its counterparts in the area is its restaurant’s commitment to best quality entertainment. Those opting for the teppan grill seating can witness spectacular displays of “samurai-like” swordsmanship of the Shogun’s chefs who juggle knives and spatulas as they prepare enticing dishes right in front of customers. Maybe that is why the banner outside of Shogun announces, “Come for the Show, Come Back for the Taste!”
Order Shogun Special – filet mignon, lobster tail and samurai shrimp or hibachi scallop – and watch them prepare it right in front of your eyes. Shogun has started lunch specials Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. that include hibachi mixed vegetables, soup or salad and steamed or fried rice with your choice of several dishes, such as Premium Grill Chicken and Fine Marbling New York Steak. Dinner specials start at 3 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
At dinner time the restaurant is said to be full, so the best time to come is before 3 p.m. Although I must say that while we were there for lunch we heard “Irasshaimase” shout-outs at regular intervals. More than half a dozen flat-screen TVs are available for your viewing pleasure from any vantage point near the sushi bar, and with the start of the sports season, Shogun has introduced a Sports Package – one appetizer platter (with up to four choices from the provided appetizer menu) and one pitcher of premium beer (your choice of Sapporo, Sam Adams or Heffewaizen) for $19.95. Shogun also has a separate area for a full service bar neatly tucked away in one of its corners.
We decided to end our meal on a sweet note. “Desserts?” asked our hostess. “That’s easy! I can recite them from memory.” And she proceeded to describe Fried Banana a la Mode– a banana sliced in half, dipped in batter, fried and topped with ice cream. Although definitely tempted, we were intrigued by her description of Mochi Ice Cream – and what a wonderful discovery that was! When it arrived, Mochi Ice Cream looked like sugar-powdered pastry balls on the outside. Two inches in diameter they are actually made out of soft, pounded sticky rice cake (known as mochi), which is filled with ice cream. Shogun has it in three flavors – green tea, mango and strawberry. Mochi’s lightly dusted wrapper makes a spoon an unnecessary tool – definitely use your fingers – they will slowly warm up the ice cream inside the ball. But beware, once you take your first bite and feel its flavors melt on your tongue, you will declare your eternal fealty to Mochi Ice Cream.
Shogun Japanese Restaurant is located at 41501 Margarita Road. #L-101. It is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Happy Hour is every day from 3 to 6 p.m. For more information, call (951) 296-9133 or visit http://www.restaurantshogun.com.