I finally made it to n/naka in Los Angeles and wow, did it impress. Niki Nakayama is a Los Angeles born chef, owner and operator of n/naka. The Modern Kaiseki thirteen-course menu focuses on local produce, some of which is grown in the chefs own backyard, and the freshest seafood, either fished close to home, or flown in from Japan.
Chef Nakayama overcame many obstacles during her Japanese training, due to the male dominated culture in Japan. Still today, she prefers to cook in a closed kitchen, so the visiting clientele won’t judge her on her sexuality, but her handcrafted cuisine.
As for the menu, a picture says a thousand words and in n/naka’s case – many more. The plates begin with light fare and progress into slightly heartier foods, however none of the dishes are too heavy or cumbersome, but focused on fresh flavors.
To begin – Saki Zuke, or a Santa Barbara Mussel & Mussel Foam with Caviar and Potato Puree, Shiso Oil and a crispy Maui Onion. The flavors were delicate and with just one bite, you knew you were in for a great dining experience.
Our next plate was Zensai, or a miniature five-compartment tasting of fresh Snow Crab with Black Truffle, Maitake & Enoki Tempura, White Fish with Yamaimo Plum Sauce, Panko Crusted Halibut and a hollowed-out Pickled Apple for a palate cleanser.
Modern Zukuri or Kampachi sashimi-style with Pepper Jelly and a smear of Nori Sauce and Beet Puree. The Nori added a salty component to the fresh fish and the Beet counterbalanced with a hint of sweetness. Isn’t this beautiful.
Owan “Still Water” or a Broth of Rock Fish, Carrot, Broccolini and Mitsuba (Japanese Parsley). I found the soup, warm and light – heighten my senses for the upcoming plate.
Otsukuri or Traditional Sashimi with fresh seasonal fish, light & flavorful – made me appreciate the true taste of quality raw seafood.
Yakimono or Grilled Dish was a thin slice of Unagi, Shiitake Mushroom, Seared Foie Gras with a slice of fresh Strawberry in a Balsamic Glaze. The combination of flavors were delicate, but intense all at once. I love the combination of balsamic and strawberry in desserts, and now I love it savory too.
Mushimono or Steamed Dish – Black Cod with Cauliflower and Taro Puree with a Dusting of Ogo or seaweed and Matcha in a Garlic Sauce. The combination of textures and temperatures, plus the light earthiness of the Matcha and Ogo was divine.
Shizakana was the chefs choice dish of Spaghettini, Abalone, Pickled Cod Roe and Truffles. It really gave Italian chefs a run for their money. I loved the texture of fresh pasta, alongside the abalone, not to mention the aromatic truffle, uniquely exquisite.
Niku or the Meat and Fish course of Japanese Wagyu Beef A5 and local Black Cod. I have never eaten Wagyu that I have enjoyed this much, tender with a slight crispy exterior. The only bummer is, no picture!
Sunomono or Kumamoto Oyster and a cup of Yuzu Omoi or a flavored citrus Sake from Kyoto. Love the presentation and the fresh taste.
Shouji or Sushi was next, followed by a Blue Crab handroll. Just look at the freshness, I just loved the Uni Sushi and delicate Octopus. The fresh handroll was another extra treat from the chef – great touch.
The desserts were simply delicious and capped off a wonderful meal. Blood Orange Granita with Matcha Tea, Pistachio Baklava with Lemon Sorbet, Lemon Curd, Cream & Nuts and a small share plate of Matcha Cake with Truffles (pic is blurry).
n/naka was one of the most delightful tasting menus I have had in a while. I don’t think I have ever had fish that fresh and beautifully presented. The entire meal unfolded so effortlessly and our table enjoyed each and every dish. This is definitely worth the wait for a reservation and the price tag.