Restaurant: N/Naka [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]
Location: 3455 S. Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034. 310.836.6252
Date: November 3, 2017
For some reason I haven’t been to N/Naka in 2-3 years (even though I love it). So when some of my friends invited me I 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.
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 92. Billecart-Salmon is probably most famous for their excellent bottling of non-vintage Brut Rosé, and the new bottling is another superb wine. The cépages is comprised of forty percent chardonnay, twenty percent pinot meunier and thirty-five percent pinot noir, with eight percent of the pinot noir included as still wine to give this wine its lovely, pale salmon color. The dosage is slightly higher here, but still judicious at nine grams per liter. The bouquet is pure and vibrant, wafting from the glass in a mix of tangerine, almonds, smoke, lovely minerality, wheat toast and dried flowers. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and very focused, with a fine core, racy, zesty acids and great cut and grip on the long and beautifully balanced finish.
Saki zuke (a pairing of something common and something unique). Black tiger shrimp, fillo, shrimp tomally sauce, kabocha puree, finger lime.
Pierro brought: 2014 Desiderio Jeio (Bisol) Prosecco Noso2 Extra Brut. Super dry very tasty proscecco, zero dosage.
Zensai (seasonal ingredients presented as an appetizer).
duck with tomato. Crispy ginko nuts on the left. Nice smokey duck.
Branzino with yuzu aioli. A warm “sushi” with the tangy sauce.
okra and green bean terrine goma sauce. One of these traditional Japanese vegetable gels.
ika with natto and wasabi. It’s unusual to find natto (fermented soy beans) in a fancy restaurant.
pickled crab apple. The inside was cored out. Actually a fabulous little apple with a nice crunch and bracing acidity.
Ron brought: 2009 Philippe Colin Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 91+. Medium yellow. Pineapple, grapefruit and crushed stone on the nose. Sweet and fruit-driven; much fresher than the Demoiselles but shows a distinct apricotty ripeness. Concentrated, chewy and seamless but could use more complexity. Will this age?
Modern zukuri (modern interpretation of sashimi). Hagatsuo tartare, grape gelee, myoga, fennel,smoked tosazu sauce. Soft and delicate and rich.
From my cellar: 1999 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. VM 94. Raveneau’s 1999 Chablis Montée de Tonnerre is in a marvelous spot right now. Petrol, smoke, slate, apricot pit and wild flowers are some of the many notes that grace the palate in an utterly vivid, vibrant Chablis endowed with magnificent purity and pedigree. At fifteen years of age, the 1999 Montée de Tonnerre still has a lot to say. What a beautiful wine!
Stuart brought: 2008 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. BH 94. A more elegant as well as more refined but also much more reserved nose of white flower and salt water aromas is very much in keeping with the equally refined, pure and silky middle weight flavors that possess excellent detail and precision on the textured and seductive finish that displays grand cru level persistence. This is not quite as rich as the Butteaux but it’s finer as the chiseled flavors are flat out gorgeous. In a word, stunning.
Owan (still water). shrimp, mushroom and chestnut suigyoza, renkon, broccolini and dashi.
With the dashi added. Amazing chestnut dumpling!
Otsukuri (traditional sashimi). seasonal fish and oyster. Very nice sashimi.
Pierro brought: 2012 Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Cuvée Théo. VM 90. Vivid gold-tinged yellow. Bright rose water and honeyed tropical fruits on the nose. Similarly vibrant and fresh in the mouth, with floral and spicy peach flavors. Not especially complex or long but has sneaky concentration and very good balance. I’m not usually a huge fan of the Cuvée Theo wines, but this is everything you could want an entry-level Gewürztraminer to be.
Yakimono (grilled dish). Foie gras, persimmon, buddha’s hand, pickled radish, foie gras ju, shishito pepper powder. This looked better than it tasted. Not that it tasted bad, but somehow the persimmon overshadowed the foie.
mushimono (steaned dish). black cod, uni, matsutake, mitsuba, sea lettuce and ankake dashi.
Larry brought: 2000 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon. VM 92. Saturated ruby-red. More reserved aromas of blackberry, cassis, licorice, minerals, cinders and spices. Juicy and tight, with a varietally accurate raw currant character. Fresh, intense and structured for the year. Finishes very long, with firm tannins and strong spice character.Shiizakana (not bound by tradition, the chef’s choice dish). Spaghettini with abalone, pickled cod roe, truffles. Niki makes really wonderful and unusual pastas. This isn’t for everyone, being very “seafoody” but we all adored it. Fabulous textures too.
Pierro, who has certainly had his share of pasta over the decades loved it too. He reported that this was the first time he’s had pasta with chopsticks (probably about my 400th, but I’m an asian noodle fiend).
Niku (meat). Japan miyazaki wagyu beef a5. The fig was my favorite part — but the meat was great too.
Sunomono. Snow crab, tomato, cucumber, yuzu curd. Pretty strong tomato flavors.
Ron brought: NV Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée. VM 94. The NV Grande Cuvée is absolutely stellar. This is one of the very best Grande Cuvées I can remember tasting. The flavors are bright, focused and beautifully delineated throughout, all of which make me think the wine will age well for many, many years. Lemon peel, white flowers, crisp pears, smoke and crushed rocks race across the palate in a vibrant, tense Champagne that epitomizes finesse.
From my cellar: Soto Sake. Great super premium junmai daiginjo.
Shokuji/ sushi. Seasonal fish. I didn’t get them all written down. You can see tai (snapper), toro, hamachi/kampachi, Japanese scallop and Japanese uni / ikura for sure.
Blue crab hand-rolls. Because I was still hungry!
Niki (right) and her wife (left) pose with Pierro and Stuart.
Dessert. Date filling rye cream puff, rye ice cream, rye cookie, Pear brulee, apple cider caramel sauce.
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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