Tuesday, August 25, 2015

N/NAKA (LOS ANGELES, CA)

n/naka
3455 S. Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
www.n-naka.com
Tel: 310.836.6252
$$$$ ($50+)
Cuisine: Japanese/Kaiseki
Thurs, 08/20/2015, 7:30pm reservation
     (5 Piglets)





N/naka is one of those restaurants that you rarely come across often. I waited two months for a reservation to finally be able to try this restaurant all thanks to Chef's Table. It's a special place that truly transcends Japanese cuisine at its finest. The restaurant is constructed around the idea of kaiseki, a Japanese culinary art that presents ingredients in the freshest and most natural form. 

Chef Niki Nakayama has a gift of transporting us on a Japanese culinary adventure by exhibiting kaiseki with both traditional and modern techniques. The chef, who once worked under Takao Izumida of Takao and Masa Sato whilst in Japan, is able to bring a tasting menu that exposes us to the art of the kaiseki practice. Not only are the ingredients fresh, but she handpicks everything everyday.

N/naka can be easily missed; no signs...just a plain, gray building. The interior is simple and casual with clean lines. The ambiance makes you feel comfortable with d├ęcor that isn't over the top. A row of elegant chairs line a countertop for guests to sit, relax and sip on some bubbly while waiting for their tables.


The interior
The bar area
A glass of  bubbly to welcome you!


And the food...well...see for yourself!



COURSE 1: SAKI ZUKE (A PAIRING OF SOMETHING COMMON AND SOMETHING UNIQUE): Kabocha and Shrimp Cake, Caviar, Chilled Kabocha Soup. If each course tasted this good, I'm in for a real treat. The soup was absolutely and utterly divine. I literally would drink this soup everyday if I could. The Kabocha and Shrimp cake was light, smokey, and soaked up the delicious soup. The broth was slightly sweet and paired perfectly with the shrimp cake. It was a perfect way to start the meal to anticipate the goodness that would come next. 
A CLOSER LOOK AT COURSE 1 WITHOUT THE SOUP
COURSE 2: ZENSAI (SEASONAL INGREDIENTS PRESENTED AS AN APPETIZER): Deep fried panko crusted tuna with yuzu aioli, Squid ink sauce, Lobster spring roll, Duck, Jellyfish sashimi with ginger. The lobster was my favorite out of the four. It was extremely fresh and partially cooked with all the textures. It was slightly sweet and I appreciated the lightness of the roll as it was wrapped in rice paper. The tuna was super crispy just the way I liked it and the aioli complemented the tuna. The duck was a little dry for my liking but the jellyfish was light and delicious.
A closer look at the duck and the jellyfish
A closer look at the tuna and the lobster

COURSE 3: MODERN ZUKURI (MODERN INTERPRETATION OF SASHIMI): Uni wrapped with scallop, Nori seaweed, Strawberry, Yuzu. Man, am I picky when it comes to uni. I don't particularly love it because I feel really good, fresh uni is hard to find, but when you do...its game over! This uni presented before us was probably the best uni I've ever had. I don't know why...maybe its because the sweetness was complemented by the sweetness of the raw scallops. To be honest, this dish was mighty tasty and the strawberries were picked straight from the chef's garden. The yuzu was just icing on the scallops! 
A closer look at this dish
COURSE 4: OWAN "STILL WATER": Baby corn, snow crab in dobin mushi. This was probably the dish I was least amazed about. I'm not saying that it was bad by any means, cause it was delicious, but it just reminded me of Chinese corn soup (which is my favorite soup).  The crab was tender and I appreciated that I had multiple sippings of my soup 
Look at all this soup! 
And my crab got stuck in the spout :(
COURSE 5: OTSUKURI (TRADITIONAL SASHIMI): Oh Toro, Kurodai, Amaebi, Kuamoto Oyster, Hamachi. OMG. I think I literally died. The sashimi was melt in your mouth, sweet, and bursting with flavor. It was so fresh and I could have eaten this all day. One of the best sashimis I've ever had.
THE COOKED STUFF CHEF MADE ON THE FLY FOR OUR FRIEND. THAT SHRIMP WAS SOOO GOOD...SMOKEY WITH A NICE CHAR ON IT!

COURSE 6: YAKIMONO (GRILLED): Conch with quail egg and broth. I believe this was my first time having conch and it was quite interesting. It was a bit rubbery and had a strong, pungent smell. The broth was good, but unfortunately I barely had any and had to borrow some from my friends to taste it. The quail egg was a nice touch. This was probably my least favorite dish but I was definitely wow'd by the presentation. 
And it was all gone....
COURSE 7: MUSHIMONO (STEAMED/FRIED): Fried sea bass. This was delicious. It had a sweet and sour flavor and the eggplant that came with the dish was nicely cooked. It was a good dish overall. 
MY FAVORITE DISH. COURSE 8: SHIIZAKANA (NOT BOUND BY TRADITION, THE CHEF'S CHOICE DISH): Spaghettini with abalone, Pickled cod roe, Burgundy truffles. This dish was absolutely amazing. I mean...its just spaghetti right? But its some revamped spaghetti with some bold flavors. The truffles added a bit of earthiness to the dish. The roe gave a bit of saltiness and the abalone a bit of texture. Comprehensively, it was heaven in your mouth and I wanted a big bowl of it! 
A closer look at the pasta
COURSE 9: NIKU (MEAT COURSE): Japan Matsuzaka Wagyu Beef A5. Seriously, this was the best beef I've tasted in a really, really, really long time. It came on a sizzling plate to cook to your liking. The beef was perfectly marbleized that melted in your mouth. 
COURSE 10: SUNOMONO: Maguro, Japanese cucumber, Wakame, Yuzu Sake. This is a dish to cleanse the palate. It was fresh and light and the yuzu sake...oh man! Don't get me started on that. I could drink that forever.... 


COURSE 11: SHOKUJI (RICE DISH-SUSHI): Kinmedai, Toro, Hotate, Aji, Miso Soup. The sushi was utterly delicious. Each fish was melt-in-your-mouth perfection. The fish was sweet and fresh and she coated it with a little soy. The miso soup was bold and the way a miso soup should taste. A successful course. 

Ever seen tempura fried uni? Now you have! Although our friend was disappointed that she couldn't eat anymore raw foods, she said this stayed creamy and fresh. 
COURSE 12: DESSERT: Ume Shiso Granita. The granita was made out of plum and came with a matcha green tea. Together, it was delicious. The plum granita wasn't overly sweet , refreshing, and was a perfect way to end the meal and start a creamier dessert. 


A closer look at the granita
COURSE 13: DESSERT: Toasted Coconut Ice Cream, Stewed Lychee, Papaya, Pineapple, Macademia Nut, Meringue, Madeline. This was my kind of dessert. I'm very particular when it comes to coconut and I actually enjoyed this dessert. All the textures and flavors were spot on. It wasn't overly heavy and I thoroughly enjoyed this dish. 


I wanted some chocolate and voila! It was in front of me! 


Overall, N/naka is a breath of fresh air. I have not tasted something this fresh and unique in a very long time, especially in Los Angeles. The intricate details and respect that Chef Nakayama has for the ingredients can be seen in each course. How she comes up with the pairing of each ingredient is truly inconceivable. And if you've been here before, she takes note of it so you wouldn't have the same menu twice. 

Beyond the food, the service is impeccable. They unequivocally care about their customers and their experiences at N/naka. One of our friends ended up having an unknown allergic reaction to one of the dishes (possibly from raw shellfish) and the servers constantly catered to her, making sure she was ok. Additionally, Chef Nakayama changed up the menu for her on the fly to prevent any additional reactions from occurring.

N/naka is a masterpiece and in my opinion, would probably consider it one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. This place isn't cheap ($185/pp) but I would eat at this place again in a heartbeat...that is if I'm lucky enough to secure a reservation. Thanks Chef Niki for an amazing meal! 




Notable dishes: Spaghettini with Abalone and the Sashimi

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