WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Shogun was New Orleans’s first sushi bar, and only the second restaurant to serve sushi at all. It thereafter set the standard for all that would follow. Calling it the best sushi bar in town will inevitably start an argument, but it’s a credible thing to say. The restaurant is large enough to cover all the other Japanese culinary bases, from beautiful multi-course dinners to the hibachi foolishness with the showoff chefs, flames, and applause.
The quality, temperature, and presentation of the fish is consistently a little bit better than you’re probably accustomed to getting. The menu of classical Japanese cooked dishes (other than the hibachi stuff) is also highly various and very well executed, particularly the bento boxes for both lunch and dinner. The ingredients in these are as fine as what shows up on the sushi bar. This is a restaurant I would trust to cook any Japanese dish, no matter how complicated. Even after going there practically since the place opened, I feel as if I’ve not come close to trying everything they can do.
Shogun opened in 1981 in a smaller restaurant down Veterans Highway. It was perfect timing: the taste of Baby Boomers had become sophisticated, and the boldness of the generation behind them allowed sushi to become a phenomenon. That they were there first with a great product put them at the top of the list. Shogun got so busy that it moved to an enormous former Shakey’s Pizza House, with what is still the city’s longest sushi bar. When Benihana closed its French Quarter restaurant, Shogun bought the teppanyaki tables and started doing hibachi cookery, thereby attracting the mainstream.
The entrance passageway cuts the big restaurant in half. Conventional tables are on the right, hibachi tables on the left. The place is not heavily atmospheric, but the customers come for the food.
Shrimp, squid, soft-shell crab, or vegetable tempura
Baked mixed seafood appetizer
Beef or chicken skewers
»Broccoli or cabbage salad
»Sushi (tremendous variety)
Hibachi chicken, beef, scallops, giant squid or shrimp dinners
Teriyaki chicken, beef, tuna, salmon, lobster, scallops, squid or shrimp dinners
»Chicken or beef sukiyaki (prepared at the table)
»Chicken or seafood nabe (prepared at the table)
»Shabu shabu (prepared at the table)
»Teishoku dinners (complete dinners of eight small dishes in an enameled box)
Eel kabayaki (marinated and broiled)
»Grilled smelt (tiny fish)
Salmon or yellowtail “neck”
»Steamed monkfish liver
Beef tataki (seared and rare, with ponzu sauce)
Grilled octopus with ponzu
»Mackerel sashimi and fried head and tail
FOR BEST RESULTS
Like all sushi bars, this one saves its really fine product for its many regular customers. Come regularly, ask questions, look avid, and you’ll get it too. There is no way to overestimate the range of possibilities.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The hibachi aspect of Shogun adds less than nothing to its goodness, but what would they fill all that space with?
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +2
- Value +1
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +2
- Local Color
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Shogun is so good for so long, has such an enormous menu, and has so many regular customers that its preeminence among New Orleans Japanese restaurants is a negative for some people. (Not being new is a strike against many restaurants.) If it seems dubious that Shogun is one of the best places around town for sushi, go in there in the middle of the afternoon, find a friendly sushi chef, and press him on just what he has available. Order some of it, then see if you can find any other establishment with a comparable list and much higher standards. I rest my case.