Restaurant: N/Naka [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
Location: 3455 S. Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034. 310.836.6252
Date: March 1, 2014
For some reason I haven’t been to N/Naka in over a year (even though I love it). So when one of my Burgundy friends invited me we jumped on a return visit to see what the fabulous Chef Niki Nakayama has been up to!
The setting is elegant, minimalist, and very Japanese.
Tonight’s rough menu (kitchen notes).
1995 Bruno Paillard Champagne Nec Plus Ultra. IWC 93. Yellow-gold with a steady bead. Deep, smoky, complex bouquet offers caramel apples, poached pear, orange rind and baking spices. Broad and fleshy, with spicy orchard fruit flavors complemented by buttery brioche and creme brulee Rich and chewy but energetic, finishing with a gently tangy citrus peel quality and an echo of toasted bread. There’s an awful lot going on here.
agavin: A lovely mature Champagne.
Crispy potato, sea urchin, caviar, cauliflower puree, gold flakes. Pretty much consumed in one bite. The crispy potato dominated.
The vegetarian version with eggplant and truffle.
A Santa Barbara spot prawn with a bit of beet. Deliciously sweet.
Tai ceviche with tomato. Even good by my tomato-hater standards.
Ankimo foie with mushroom. She may have pan seared the monkfish liver, not positive, but it sure tasted like foie gras.
Big eye tuna in the shape of a flower (with avocado).
The vegetarian seasonal plate.
2002 Philipponnat Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses. Parker 96. The flagship 2002 Brut Clos des Goisses is simply stunning in this vintage. Seamless, ripe and beguiling, the 2002 is pure harmony in the glass. Dried pears, apricots, flowers, red berries and spices are some of the many notes that inform this towering, aristocratic wine. At once vertical yet endowed with serious length, the 2002 stands out for its breathtaking balance and overall sense of harmony. Layers of fruit built to the huge, creamy finish. This is a great showing from Philipponnat. The 2002 was disgorged in June 2011.
agavin: I liked the first better, but this was still very nice.
Modern sashimi: Fresh Japanese Scallop, English peas, yuzu foam, ponzu. Everything was perfectly cooked. Those brown ponzu blobs alone were amazing.
Vegetarian version with various root vegetables.
The serving containers are lovely.
Owan “Still Water”: bamboo, seabass, mitsub, dashi broth. This dish had a wonderful Japanese unami flavor.
This vegetarian soup came in a teapot.
Traditional sashimi: blufin tuna chu toro, halibut, kampachi, kumamoto oyster, lobster. Perfectly fresh and delicious.
A vegetarian version with various fruits and vegetables, plus a tofu.
Yakimono (grilled): Alaskan King Crab with kani miso (crab guts). The crab guts leant a lovely complexity to the sweet crab.
Filled with some kind of egg custard.
From my cellar: 2001 I Clivi Collio Coriziano Clivi Brazan. Parker 92. The 2001 Collio Goriziano Clivi Brazan 140 Months is a rich and sophisticated wine that could stand up to roasted white meat, shellfish or pasta with shaved truffles. This thickly structured white has the density and natural heft to match important dishes. It evolves slowly in the glass to impart defined fruit and spice aromas. The wine shows an absolutely beautiful quality and successfully demonstrates the aging capacity of Friulano (with 15% Malvasia in the case of this wine).
agavin: This was my first time tasting the Clivi, and boy was it unusual. Not oxidized at all, but extremely unusual and herby — like ricola herby. Now, this made it a poor pairing with the food, but with the right stuff, it would be a lovely wine filling an unusual niche.
Mushimono (Steamed): steamed seabass with dashi. Another example of that lovely umani.
Agemono (Fried): cauliflower deep fried with sweet and sour sauce. It’s heated until the sauce bubbles then…
We opened both red Burgundies at once.
From my cellar: 1996 Joseph Drouhin Romanée St. Vivant. Burghound 90. Airy, pure, elegant and extremely expressive as the aromas just float from the glass with rose petal and assorted floral notes. The mineral-infused, racy and finely delineated flavors are nuanced and textured though the backend has a somewhat dry and edgy quality to it that is highlighted by the racy finishing acidity.
agavin: I love this wine (and RSV in general). It was a nice LONG racy acidic finish.
1999 Domaine du Clos de Tart Clos de Tart. Burghound 90-93. The oak that sat atop the fruit for so long has now almost completely integrated, allowing the relatively fresh aromas of black cherry, violets and earth hints to have center stage. The supple yet detailed middle weight plus flavors are attractively vibrant and restrained while culminating in a moderately austere finish where the mouth coating tannins are still noticeably firm and ever so slightly dry, which may be due to wood tannins. This needs a few years to sort itself out as it seemed unduly awkward. Note: I was surprised to see the slightly dry tannins as it’s not a characteristic of the vintage. The good news is that there is ample extract, which should in the end allow this to age gracefully but all the same.
agavin: also a great wine, with so much stuffing that I saved the last 25% of it for the next day and it was basically unchanged!
Shizakana: homemade seaghettini with abalone, pickled cod roe, burgundy truffles. Niki makes really wonderful and unusual pastas. This isn’t for everyone, being very “seafoody” but we all adored it.
Purple yam ravioli with truffles. My wife inhaled this it was so good.
Niku (meat): Japanese Matsuzaka wagyu beef. Absolutely melted in your mouth.
For the vegetarians: tofu cooked on a banana leaf.
Sunomono: fanny bay oyster, yuzu omoi from Kyoto Japan. Straight up and lovely.
Sake. Super smooth, with lots of anise.
Sushi flights: tai and o-toro.
Aji Mackerel and amaebi sweet shrimp.
Shima Aji and uni.
Buckwheat soba with dashi broth and tempura crumbles. A nice rendition.
We couldn’t resist another round of the pasta, this time a double.
Dessert: chestnut crepe and chocolate pot de creme.
N/Naka really is a very special place. All the meals I had here were spectacular (here for the first, here for the second, here for the third). Plus we even did an amazing all foie gras meal here ounce. 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. At N/Naka everything is seasonal and constantly rotating.
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