n/naka Los Angeles: N/Naka gain a lot of popularity with its Chef’s Table episode on Netflix. The episode follows chef Niki Nakayama, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, through her kitchen and how she expresses herself through her cooking.
Chef Niki Nakayama started her career at Takao in Brentwood, California, then decided to get more experience throughout Japan for three years. She got her kaiseki experience at Shirakawa-Ya Ryokan under Chef Masa Sato. She returned to Los Angeles to open Azami Sushi serving an omakase menu then n/naka displaying her kaiseki experience.
There are a lot of misconception about Kaiseki especially in Los Angeles. Kaiseki gets used by Angelinos for any non-edomae style omakase menu; however, it’s truly not Kaiseki cuisine. Kaiseki cuisine originated in Kyoto and you will always see Japanese use ‘Kyoto’ cuisine and ‘Kaiseki’ interchangeably. The Japanese take pride in this form of cooking and it’s their Haute Cuisine. However, I think the term ‘Mordern Kaiseki’ would be appropriate because Chef Nakayama does draw influences from the Kaiseki culture. I would say n/naka falls into the same category as Ryugin since it’s a Modern Kaiseki restaurant; however, it wouldn’t be in the same category with a more traditional and authentic Kaiseki restaurant like Kichisen.
The service at n/naka is as good as any Michelin one starred restaurant in the world. The detail explanations along with the prompt and attentive initiative to provide an extraordinary experience. There are a few things that could be improved on but it’s not significant enough to lower the overall experience. For example , two or three Michelin starred restaurants deliver the dishes in unison and make sure the courses are set in front of the patrons at the same moment. n/naka delivered the dish one after the other .
Now, the Modern Kaiseki menu. The dinner opened with an amuse bouche to the several courses to nigiri to dessert. The menu as a whole wasn’t anything extraordinary or brought an inspiring flavors to my palate. Here are the ones worth mentioning:
- Nigiri – The fish selection wasn’t anything out of the ordinary from the typical items seen in an omakse menu. However, the usage of vinegar was noticeable. It overpower the natural flavors of the fish and each nigiri was consistent with the overuse of vinegar. The nigiri portion of the course was a huge disappointment.
- A5 Japanese Wagyu – The best beef in the world served on a masculine stone plate with a dash of sauce. To be honest , I didn’t use the sauce cause I like to enjoy the natural beef flavors especially when it comes to quality Japanese Wagyu. The buttery and rich flavors were reminiscent of the steaks I had in Japan.
- Foie Gras – The seared Foie Gras laid on top of a Matsutake mushroom then topped with half a strawberry. It was one of the few dishes to come out on a white plate providing a visual contrast to the presentation and other savory courses. The buttery and decadent Foie Gras melted on your palate while the strawberry brought life to the dish and the Matsutake providing texture. It was a pretty well executed dish.
Overall, n/naka was a decent dinner but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I wouldn’t put n/naka in the top 10 Los Angeles restaurants. Unfortunately, I can’t say I would rush back to n/naka because there are other omakase menus I rather repeat a third or fourth time before returning to n/naka.
- Service - 7.5/107.5/10
- Presentation - 7/107/10
- Flavors - 6.5/106.5/10
- Decor - 7/107/10
- Ambiance - 7/107/10
N/Naka gain a lot of popularity with its Chef’s Table episode on Netflix. It’s fairly lit restaurant to display Chef Nakayama’s artistic presentation of her interpretation of ‘Kaiseki’. n/naka was a decent dinner but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.