Restaurant: N/Naka [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
Location: 3455 S. Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034. 310.836.6252
Date: September 14, 2012
I first went to the amazing Omakase only N/Naka last summer. After a bit of a hiatus the Foodie Club returns. Now bear in mind that this lovely restaurant has only a set menu (they offer it in two sizes, plus vegetarian) but the talented young chef Ms. Niki Nakayama has whipped up an entirely different meal (with similar structure) every time we’ve gone!
The setting is elegant, minimalist, and very Japanese.
This time around we went with wine pairings. Sommelier Jeffery Stivers just a fantastic job with these and even more so given the difficulties in pairing Japanese flavors with wine. Very little red wine works (good Burgundy with some dishes) and with a small number of people so many courses are hard to pair by bringing bottles.
Our first pairing: French Sparkling Wine, Domaine Rosier ‘Cuvee Jean-Philippe”, Blanquette de Limoux, France 2010.
Saki Zuke (A pairing of something common and something unique) – Fanny Bay Oysters that have been butter poached and are wrapped in a bird’s nest of crispy Maui Onions and is topped with fresh Uni from Santa Barbara, a leaf of baby Red-veined Sorrel and a Flower of Pansy both of which are from Niki’s garden, a dusting of onion powder and sits in on a sauce of spicey Russet Potato and Dashi and a gelee of Sanbaizu (a combination of mirin and dashi).
This is a vegetarian or fish substitute. I’ll indicate these with VS:
On a Bed of Julienned Crispy Bull’s Blood Beets sits Norwegian Smoked Salmon along side of Junsai (water shield), topped with a shochu Crème Fraiche, Chives, a Flower of Pansy, Gold Leaf and a Puree of Roasted Nasu (Baby Japanese Eggplant).
Verdejo, Martinsancho, Rueda, Spain 2010.
Zensai (Main seasonal ingredient presented as an appetizer)
Seared scallop, a Sauce of Yuzu Pepper, Roasted Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes,a chip of Bull’s Blood Beet, Micro-mache.
Maine Lobster on top of Flower and Herb-infused Rice Paper, Sauce of Tamal (head of Amaebi).
Olive Oil Poached Ono from Fiji on a sweep of White Corn Coulis.
A Cucumber roll that is stuffed with Canadian Snow Crab and Unagi (Freshwater eel), Onion Sprouts and topped with a gelee of Sanbaizu. This was amazing, with a light smoky flavor.
Goma Dofu – Sesame and Green Tea Tofu topped with a tie of Green Asparagug and Konbu Dashi.
Olive Oil Poached Ono from Fiji on a sweep of White Corn Coulis, a Sauce of Yuzu Pepper, Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes, a chip of Bull’s Blood Beet, Micro-mache.
A Daikon Roll of with Hirame (Halibut) and Ponzu.
Tasmanian Sea Trout that is pan-seared along with fresh Lemon.
Pinot Blanc, Dopff and Irion, Alsace, France 2008.
Modern Zakuri (A modern interpretation of sashimi) – Tartare of O-toro of Big Eyed Tuna, White Scallions, topped with Caviar of American White Sturgeon, Uni Butter, Soy Reduction, Chives and Konbu Dashi.
Roero Arneis, Giovanni Almondo “Bricco del Ciliegie”, Piedmont, Italy 2011.
Lobster Shinjo – A Mousselin of Maine Lobster in a Broth of Momotaro Tomato, Fennel Root and Dashi topped with Fennel Root and Chive.
VS: Kurodai Suimono – Pan-seared Kurodai (Black Snapper) that is stuffed with Mitsuba and is in a Yuzu Dashi Broth.
My favorite sake: Sake Junmai Ginjo, “Shichida” Tenzen Brewery, Saga, Japan.
In the glass. It tastes like licorice.
Otsukuri (Sashimi) – Toro of Big Eyed Tuna, Kumomoto Oyster with Ponzu, Live Hirame (Halibut) from Jeju, Korea, Kanpachi (Amberjack Tuna), Tai (Japanese Snapper), fresh sweet shrimp from Santa Barbara, all served with Freshly Grated Wasabi, Ponzu and Niki’s Special Soy Sauce.
Toro of Big Eyed Tuna, Live Hirame (Halibut) from Jeju, Korea, Kanpachi (Amberjack Tuna), Tai (Japanese Snapper), freshly Grated Wasabi and Niki’s Special Soy Sauce.
Muller Thurgau, Kurtatsch Cortaccia, Alto Adige, Italy 2009.
Agemono (Fried dish) – Tempura Pompano along with the Crispy Bones with Multi-colored Peppers, Scallions and a Sauce of Sweet and Sour Dashi, Butter Lettuce Leaves.
The fish is cooked table-side and then wrapped in this lettuce.
Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine de Laurier, Languedoc, France 2010.
Yakimono (Grilled dish) – Hotate Yaki – Live Diver Scallops from Boston grilled in their own Shell with the Roasted Liver, Shiso Leaf, Shiitake Mushroom, Yuzu Zest and Dashi.
VS: On a hot rock sits roasted Nasu (Japanese Eggplant) that has been cored out and filled with Maguro of Big Eyed Tuna, Shiso Leaf and Miso.
Greco di Tufo, Villa Mathilde, Campania, Italy 2010. This is a volcanic white wine (DOCG) from near Mount Vesuvius.
Shiizakana (Not bound by tradition, the Chef’s choice dish) – Spaghettini with Black Abalone from Monterey, Pickled Cod Roe, Shaved Italian Summer Truffles, Garlic, Soy and topped with Daikon Radish Sprouts. An unusual, but truly unworldly pasta.
VS: Spaghettini with Mentaiko (Pickled Cod Roe), shaved Italian Summer Truffles, Garlic, Soy and topped with Daikon Radish Sprouts.
Pinot Noir, Ampelos Cellars “Fiddlestix Vineyard”, Santa Rita Hills, CA 2008.
Niku (Meat Course) – American Wagyu from Washington State Rib-cap Steak with a Canele of Russet Potato Mashed, Nanohana (Broccoli Rabe), Roasted Carrot with a Ponzu Demi-jus American Wagyu from Washington State Rib-cap Steak with a Canele of Russet Potato Mashed, Nanohana (Broccoli Rabe), Roasted Carrot with a Ponzu Demi-jus.
VS: Pan-seared Ono from Fiji that sits on a sauce of Yuzu Cream and topped with a fresh Yuzu Foam and paired with Micro Mache, a Chip of Bull’s Blood Beet and fresh Lemon.
Sunomono (Salad) – On thinly sliced Baby Cucumbers from Nki’s Garden along with a Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato is marinated Hirame (Halibut) with Ponzu.
On the side is: Yuzu Sake, Yuzu Omoi, Yamamoto, Japan.
Sake Suijin, Asabiraki Brewery, Iwate, Japan.
Shokuji One & Two (Rice dish – Sushi) – Tai (Japanese Snapper); O-toro of Big-eyed Tuna.
Wild Aji (Spanish Mackrel); Amaebi (Sweet Raw Shrimp).
VS: for the shrimp, halibut I think.
Seared Toro and Fresh Uni (Sea Urchin).
So good it deserves a close up of the Uni.
It’s worth noting that this time around, IMHO, the sushi had really improved. The above flight, while small, was sublime.
Soba Noodles served with Freshly Grated Wasabi and Konbu Dashi.
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Delas, Rhone Valley, France 2010.
Dessert – A creme brûlée on the left and a passionfruit hollowed out with added cream and those asian gelatinous dessert cubes.
And the passionfruit. This was stunning. I love passionfruit and creamy desserts and this was so good I sucked the desiccated husk.
A special bit of red Italian passito.
And Ice Cream of Dark Chocolate with freshly whipped Cream and Organic Fresh Raspberries (for my father’s birthday).
N/Naka really is a very special place. All the meals I had here were spectacular (here for the first, here for the second, third here, fois gras). The place keeps getting better and better. This is thrice wonderful because often one finds a slight bloom to come off a place on repeat meals. I’ve recently eaten at two Jose Andres set menu restaurants where the menu barely changed in eight months, but at N/Naka everything is seasonal and constantly rotating.