3455 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Dining date: 7/15/14
n/naka opened three years ago in a quiet corner of Palms on the westside. The restaurant and its modern take on the Japanese kaiseki meal, has focused on creating a very precise multi-course meal with seasonal ingredients. Many of those ingredients are grown by chef Niki Nakayama herself in her own garden. I still feel the restaurant is somewhat under the radar; sure, Jonathan Gold has continually mentioned the restaurant in high regard (it was #18 in his 2014 best restaurants list), but I don’t feel like it’s consistently being considered with other high-end restaurants in LA.
While common in Japan, n/naka’s kaiseki-based menu is pretty unique in LA. It’s a carefully-scripted tasting menu often featuring 10+ small plates. Seasonal ingredients (usually simply prepared) are highlighted, and service and plating/decor are as much a part of a meal as the food. The thirteen course menu weighs in at $165 ($150 vegetarian) making n/naka one of the most expensive restaurants in the city (there used to be a slimmed down chefs’ tasting for $110).
The Langham Huntington
1401 S Oak Knoll Ave
Pasadena, CA 91106
Dining date: 7/10/14
The Langham Pasadena’s main restaurant has gone through a number of changes since I first dined on Craig Strong’s food at The Dining Room. Since then, Michael Voltaggio and David Feau have taken the helm for relatively short-lived chef-driven concepts (Voltaggio left to start ink. and Feau’s The Royce struggled to grasp its regular clientele). Early last year, The Royce was reborn as a steakhouse, a more conservative concept perhaps more reflecting the tastes of its primary customer base.
The Royce boasts USDA Prime cuts, as well as some international wagyu selections, all grilled over a wood fire. A largely seafood-based selection of appetizers and some seasonal side dishes round out the menu. I felt no urgency to try the new steakhouse concept, but being a steak lover I figured a visit was in order at some point. That point was just this past week.
3325 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 6/28/14
Many of the celebrity chefs with a presence in Las Vegas have a steakhouse (burger shops & pubs are also a common offshoot). Carnevino is the creation of Mario Batali & Joe Bastianich and one of their four LV restaurants (all within the Venetian/Palazzo complex). Always in the mood for a good steak, I’ve had an inkling to try Carnevino and finally had the chance during my last trip.
An Italian steakhouse, the focus at Carnevino is clearly on the beef. It’s very hard to differentiate oneself in this ‘upscale beef’ space, and Carnevino does it by partnering with meat man Adam Perry Lang who supposedly hand-selects the best USDA Prime cattle for the restaurant. It’s all aged in-house and simply prepared with sea salt, black pepper and rosemary. The Batali & Bastianich influence brings a host of Italian antipasti and pastas to round out a meal here.
Tokyo Fried Chicken Co.
122 S Atlantic Blvd
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Dining date: 4/11/14
Tokyo Fried Chicken Co. garnered plenty of attention when it first opened (almost a year ago) for its fried chicken and Japanese-accented side dishes. Long waits for its no-reservation tables kept me away at first; like most restaurants, the initial buzz died down and a table became much more manageable. Monterey Park seemed like as good a place as any to open up an Asian-slanted fried chicken shop.
While a la carte is available, most order ‘chicken dinner sets’ at a not unreasonable $12.50 per person. It turns out to be about 2-3 pieces per person, a side to share and a bowl of chicken rice. Hungrier eaters can supplement with additional ~$2 for wing/drumstick, $3.50 for a thigh and $6.25 for a breast. Our party of 6 ordered a large chicken set with some supplemental side dishes.
470 E Windmill Ln
Las Vegas, NV 89123
Dining date: 5/10/14
I’ve heard rave reviews about Bachi Burger and it definitely shot up on a list of Las Vegas restaurants to try off-strip. The restaurant is primarily known for its unique take on the burger with some Asian twists; the most notable may be its Shogun Burger with unagi, foie gras, and Asian fruits pairing with a traditional beef patty. Sounds good enough for me. On this most recent LV trip for Vegas Uncork’d, our family went to the original location for our last meal before heading home (it’s pretty close to the airport).
The restaurant’s success has led to a second Bachi Burger in the Las Vegas area, as well as consistent rumors of a location in the Los Angeles area. Sister concepts Shoku Ramen and Bachi Healthy Life Kitchen round out the group’s concepts. Shoku Ramen is actually next door and shares a wall, so their ramen-centric menu is on offer within this location of Bachi Burger. Our party of 7 was able to try quite a bit of the menu including one of the ramen.
Dining date: 6/8/14
Kali Dining is one of the more well-known of the underground dinners in Los Angeles having been around for a couple of years now. Kevin Meehan is the chef behind the concept, who spent time in the kitchens of L’Orangerie and Bastide and most recently served as Executive Chef of downtown’s Cafe Pinot.
With Kali Dining, Meehan takes his fine dining background and brings it to a much more casual atmosphere. Dinners have popped up in a number of locations around the city, primarily in downtown and on the Westside. My recent visit was to a dinner at a downtown artist’s loft; it was a gorgeous place for a pop-up dinner, where a communal table sat 20 strangers. All of the Kali Dining dinners are BYOB, ~5 courses, with a recommended minimum donation of $65pp.