n/naka (Los Angeles, CA)
3455 S. Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Dining date: 4/6/11
Niki Nakayama is the chef behind n/naka, who previously was preparing omakase menus at Inaka in Arcadia. Unfortunately I never got a chance to make it out there, and Nakayama has since left Inaka to open her own place on the Westside. It’s currently open to the public, but she had a soft-opening for friends and family in late-March to early April. Diana (who was a regular at Inaka) got an invitation to this soft-opening, and graciously invited Kevin, Ryan, Daniel, myself and friend Susannah to join.
Kyoto Carrot “Drop” California Sturgeon Caviar, Creme Fraiche
This first one was an interesting one. The spherification of carrot (from Nakayama’s garden) had a subtle sweetness, which combined with the tart creme fraiche and salty caviar. I didn’t get quite as much caviar flavor (outside of the salt) as I thought I would, though.
Tasmanian Sea Trout Confit White Asparagus Truffle Sauce
The trout was cooked well, leaving it quite tender and moist. The sauce had a very subtle truffle flavor, but added some nice depth to the fish.
Live Sea Scallop Ponzu, Yuzu Kosho
This dish was simple but good. Pretty much as advertised, I did enjoy the yuzu kosho which added just a little bit of heat here.
Sashimi Kumamoto Oyster, Tai, Chutoro, Seared Tuna, Kanpachi
Next was a plate of sashimi. I thought these were all good examples of the fish, with the kanpachi really standing out the most. I definitely would’ve preferred the tuna raw over seared, though.
Kani Koramushi Egg, Shitake, Black Truffle
Likely the most memorable dish of the night – this was a steamed crab head with black truffle, mushrooms and a chicken egg served in-shell. Really savory and full of umami, I really liked the rich sea-tasting broth with the richness of the yolk, as well as the subtle earthiness of the truffle.
Foie Gras and Takenoko Soup Takenoho Gohan
I really liked this dish as well. The foie gras was really good with a melt-in-mouth texture. I dumped the rice into the soup, making for some really comfortable, satisfying bites.
Australian Wagyu Teppan
I forgot to take a picture of this one; picture above is compliments of Diana. The wagyu was cooked well-done, but the marbling allowed it to still be tender and avoid being excessively dry. There were a lot of things going on in the sauce (garlic and soy were strong flavors), but I thought it complemented the meat well.
Toro and Tai
I really liked the tai (halibut) with the citrus of some yuzu. Even better was the luscious toro, fatty with a melt-in-mouth texture.
Masu (Tasmanian Sea Trout) and Aji
Here we had a return of the sea trout – the fish here tasted very similar to the first preparation, though this time showcasing the pure flavor of the fish. The aji (Spanish mackerel) was a good preparation as well, with its oily fishy flesh on clear display.
Hamachi Toro and Amaebi
I wish I was served hamachi belly more often as I really like it. It’s not nearly as fatty as the tuna’s belly, but it presents a richer flavor than regular hamachi while still having a really silky texture. I found the amaebi (sweet shrimp) to be a little bit chewier than expected.
Lobster Linguine Rum Butter, Parmesan Foam
This was a supplemental dish to the tasting – the table next to us was served this so we requested it. I thought this was pretty good, though not exceptional.
Green Tea Souffle with Red Bean, Frozen Chocolate Mousse with Banana Ice Cream
Lastly, we had dessert. The souffle was pretty good with a mild green tea flavor. The chocolate mousse was overly frozen and way too hard though, making it difficult to break with a fork.
I would say the food at n/naka met expectations, though did not exceed. We were presented with a broad array of well-executed traditional Japanese plates, some with some western and modern touches, but at a price point of $115, I may have expected a little more.
I missed out on Inaka, but glad the chef opened up her own place. That kani koramushi looks fantastic. It reminded me something similar to what I had at Urasawa.
Yeah the kani koramushi was probably my favorite dish! I’ve never had something anything like it at Urasawa…something to look forward to, perhaps.
I’m trying to decide between Providence or n/naka. In terms of creativity and uniqueness of dishes, which would you recommend? Thanks!
Hm that’s a tough one. Strictly in terms of creativity and uniqueness, I’d say Providence. N/naka is simpler in its approach, which isn’t to say it’s any better/worse (just different).
Okay thanks! Looking forward to Providence then 😀
You’re welcome! Have a good time!