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Sleek and soulless, the new Shunju ain’t what it used to be

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Since the very early days, we have been fans of the Shunju group. After all, these were the restaurants that pioneered the idea of modern washoku Japanese dining back in the late 1980s. So we were interested to check out the latest branch, dubbed Shunju Yurari (literally “gently floating”), that opened earlier this year close to Ebisu Station.

Truth be told, we were disappointed. Not with the interiors, which again showcase the design of owner Takashi Sugimoto, the man behind the Super Potato design studio. No grumbles about the menu, either, which continues the Shunju tradition of marrying European and Asian influences with Japanese fundamentals.

Our teishoku set lunch featured a fresh sanma (Pacific saury) grilled whole, a humble dish but one that was delectable and executed perfectly. The fish was super fresh and the rice and vegetables came from unimpeachable organic sources. Ditto the pasta lunch: It tasted just as good as it looked.

So why were we uncomfortable? What concerned us was that the operation felt soulless and slick. In part that is due to the location, in the basement of a new high-rise. But it also feels derivative. Just as other restaurants copied the Shunju style, it now is aping itself. It’s nice to know it’s there and that the food is reliable. But, sad to say, the spark is gone.

Ebisu South One Bldg. B1, 1-7-8 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya; open daily 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (last order 2 p.m.); and 5:30-11:30 p.m. (last order 10:30 p.m.); (03) 5725-7970; www.shunju.com