You enter the sleek Shibumi restaurant via a clandestine doorway next to a parking garage in downtown LA. Now the hush-hush concept continues inside – those in the know can request off-menu cannabis-infused dishes, including a battered pot leaf.
Owner David Schlosser explained that there is no risk of getting high from any of Shibumi’s dishes. The mind-bending ingredient found in cannabis is not present in any of the restaurant’s food. “We do not serve THC,” said Schlosser, who uses fresh locally-produced leaves from an organic grower near the Japanese restaurant. “I get very fresh product at all times.” Schlosser is most interested in showcasing the health benefits of the cannabis plant, rather than getting people high.
“Anybody can go home and smoke a joint, it’s not a big deal,” said Schlosser, whose home state of California is now entirely weed-legal (since January 2018), “I’d like to show more about the plant and its versatility,” he continued, “ the plant offers incredible benefits to your system, for example a lot of essential fatty acids for your brain and brain function.”
Some believe the cannabis plant can help treat epilepsy, and that it has pain-fighting potential (cannabinoid acids are thought to have similar pain fighting capabilities to ibuprofen and aspirin). It’s also a high-fiber food (meaning it’s good for digestion), is full of antioxidants and has folate (for DNA repair), calcium, vitamin c, vitamin k and iron. “I started studying the history of the plant and the health properties of the plant,” said Schlosser, who lived in Tokyo and Kyoto for four years cooking for the US Ambassador to Japan and perfecting his methods. “They’ve been eating cannabis in Southeast Asia for hundreds of years,” he said, “a lot of it is not about getting high, it’s about injecting the health properties of the plant.”
Along with the tempura cannabis leaf, Shibumi’s special dishes include vegetables flavored with cannabis-infused sauce, made like a miso paste, which is often mixed in with sesame paste in Japan. Instead, the sesame seeds in Shibumi’s version are swapped with hemp seed and hemp oil. “It’s very powerful stuff, it has a fat content like sesame, with more herby notes,” said Schlosser. Also on the secret menu is a kind of cannabis kimchi, without the chili powder, “I chop cannabis leaves and I mix it with salt, then I mix it with cabbage and ginger”.
Meanwhile, the Shibumi chef is currently working on introducing cannabis aromatics into the food, by smoking pork and chicken with cannabis plant branches and then adding cannabis salt and oil on top, “you’d be surprised at how nice the cannabis plant wood smells when you burn it,” said Schlosser. While California is getting used to its new drug laws, Schlosser has hired a lawyer who specialises in cannabis law, so the chef can potentially host THC cannabis dinner parties in the future. “This is just the beginning,” he said, “in ten years there will be cannabis restaurants.”
Find out more about Shibumi here.