Oct 2015

n/naka – Los Angeles

N/Naka - Los Angeles

I try not to throw around the word “perfect” too often, but there’s no way around it when it comes to Chef Niki Nakayama’s n/naka. From food to service and ambiance, this place is as perfect as they come. There, I said it.

N/Naka - Los Angeles

Chef Niki serves a 13-course “Modern Kaiseki” nightly ($185). The menu changes with the seasons, and with the chef’s whims, while the flow of the meal adheres to Japanese traditions. The three hour experience is beautifully orchestrated and paced  just so, leaving diners pampered, satisfied, and feeling thoroughly justified for indulging in something so extravagant.

n/naka - Los Angeles

Our meal began with Saki Zuke, “a pairing of something common and something unique,” grilled Japanese scallop with ikura (salmon eggs) and English pea soup.

n/naka - Los Angeles

The Zensai, “seasonal ingredients presented as an appetizer,” consisted of four small bites:

n/naka - Los Angeles

There was grilled squid stuffed with blue crab, paired with a quail egg yolk and squid ink sauce…

n/naka - Los Angeles

…fried renkon (lotus root) with lobster and a creamy yuzu dipping sauce…

n/naka - Los Angeles

…black cod marinated in miso…

n/naka - Los Angeles

…and delicate jelly fish sashimi with ginger.

n/naka - Los Angeles

The Modern Zukuri, “modern interpretation of sashimi,” featured luscious slices of kanpachi (amberjack) paired with bell pepper jelly, jalapeno jelly, and avocado chive sauce. n/naka - Los Angeles

One of my favorite courses was the Owan or “still water.” The baby corn and snow crab soup, which was steamed and served in a dobin mushi (tea pot), seduced with its subtle sweetness.

n/naka - Los Angeles

Next up was the Otsukuri or “traditional sashimi,” which included pristine cuts of hirame (olive flounder), hamachi (yellowtail), nama tako (octopus)…

n/naka - Los Angeles

otoro (fatty blue fin tuna)…

n/naka - Los Angeles

and a seriously slurp-able Shigoku oyster.

n/naka - Los Angeles

The Agemono or “fried” course featured a tender filet of Branzino served with pickled radish and Japanese eggplant.

n/naka - Los Angeles

The Mushimono or “steamed” course was centered on sazae, a kind of sea snail, served in its shell with a quail egg, mitsuba (Japanese wild parsley), and shiitake mushrooms.

n/naka - Los Angeles

I was most looking forward to the Shiizakana course, which is described as “not bound by tradition, the Chef’s choice dish.” The made-from-scratch spaghettini with abalone, pickled cod roe, and Burgundy truffles knocked it out of the ballpark for me. The modest twirl of noodles left me wanting more (and more).

n/naka - Los Angeles

And then there was the Niku, also known as the meat course, featuring A5 grade Matsuzaka Wagyu beef. The marbling was so intense that the bite-sized morsel turned out to be more than satisfactory. A bit of wasabi and salt were on hand to reel in its unctuousness.

n/naka - Los Angeles

Served on the side were a crispy beet chip, asparagus and carrot spears, and a charred Brussel sprout.

n/naka - Los Angeles

The Sunomono course brought ruby red cuts of maguro (tuna) paired with Japanese cucumber, wakame (seaweed), and a yuzu miso dressing.

n/naka - Los Angeles

Served on the side was a refreshing shot of yuzu-infused saké from Kyoto.

n/naka - Los Angeles

Next came the Shokuji or “rice dish,” featuring an impeccable array of nigiri.  These one-bite wonders included kinmedai (golden-eye tai or sea bream) and toro (fatty tuna belly)…

N/Naka - Los Angeles

hotate (scallop) and aji (Japanese horse mackerel)…

N/Naka - Los Angeles

uni (sea urchin) and ika (squid). I didn’t want this course to end. Ever.  N/Naka - Los Angeles

A warming cup of miso soup wrapped up the savory portion of our tasting.

n/naka - Los Angeles

Dessert was a simple yet totally satisfying affair beginning with a cool, tangy-sweet ume (salty plum) granita garnished with shiso (perilla).

N/Naka - Los Angeles

Served alongside the granita was freshly brewed matcha green tea.

n/naka - Los Angeles

The grand finale featured toasted coconut ice cream, stewed lychee, papaya, pineapple, macadamia nut meringue, and a madeline. It was an ideal finish for my tropical fruit-loving dining companion.

n/naka - Los Angeles

Warm roasted green tea delivered us to the finish line.

n/naka - Los Angeles

Before departing into the night, Chef Niki came by to say hello to Mom and me and to thank us for coming in. The gesture was very much appreciated.

Thank you for a tremendous evening, Chef Niki. I will be back as soon as my bank account recovers. Wink, wink.

n/naka
3455 Overland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Phone: 310-836-6252

One year ago: {swoon} Grilled Cheese with Pastrami at The Hat
Two years ago: 
“Old Chengdu Traditional Dishes” at Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian – Chengdu
Three years ago: Umami Burger – Pasadena
Four years ago: Son of a Gun – Los Angeles
Five years ago: Crest Cafe – San Diego (Hillcrest)
Six years ago: Maple Bacon Biscuits
Seven years ago: Phở Hòa- San Diego
Eight years ago: Cơm Tấm – Broken Rice
Nine years ago: Jim ‘N Nick’s – Birmingham

Previous Post
Next Post

4 thoughts on “n/naka – Los Angeles

  1. Was this your first time? The place really is perfect and so agree with you.

    Anyone going should watch Chef’s Table on Netflix. Episode 4 is about Niki and the place.

  2. Joe – If memory serves me right, I was able to snag a table three weeks or so in advance for a Friday night. The process of making a reservation was quite easy though — called up and spoke to someone right away. I hate it when it’s online-only and guests get the runaround.

    Michael – First but definitely not last. And yes, I still need to watch the Chef’s Table segment—I heard it was fantastic.

    Kimberly – You guys are in for a treat! Enjoy! I can’t wait to return.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *