Restaurant: N/Naka [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]
Location: 3455 S. Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034. 310.836.6252
Date: September 3, 2021
The Foodie Club returned to N/Naka in September (having been last in June).
The busy street corner on National.
The empty interior.
Our table — before we got to it.
Our menu for the night.
1971 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. VM 97. This bottle of 1971 Dom Pérignon, the second that I have tasted, was an original disgorgement and slightly paler than the Cristal 1971 served alongside. It has a devastatingly gorgeous bouquet, intoxicating from the get-go: grilled walnuts, dried honey and even a hint of marmalade, all delivered with exceptional delineation. The palate is beautifully balanced with perfect acidity. There are subtle notes of citrus peel, mandarin, crushed stone and honeysuckle, though these are discrete. It is rather the tension and precision that elevates this magnificent Champagne. Tasted at Christies/Fine Wine Experience 1971 dinner. (Drink between 2021-2030)
1990 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut. BH 97. 1990 is one of my favorite vintages ever for this storied cuvée because while the vintage was on the riper side the high yields allowed the fruit to retain a very good level of acidity which made for balanced and ageworthy wines. While I have had the pleasure of tasting the ’90 on a number of occasions since its release, the last time was alongside the 1985 and the 1988, and as admirable as those two vintages are, the 1990 is head and shoulders above them to my taste. The fantastically complex nose is comprised of an abundance of yeast and toast characters that don’t completely dominate the essence of apple, pear, citrus, spice, acacia blossom and discreet orange peel scents. There is equally good depth to the delicious, full-bodied and powerful flavors that possess a lovely sense of vibrancy thanks to the still firm but fine mousse that shapes the delineated, delicious and impeccably well-balanced finale. In my view 1990 is one of the greatest vintages for this wine of the last 25 years and one that is still drinking well. While there is no additional upside development to be hand, neither is there any rush to drink up as this should continue to hold effortlessly for years to come. (Drink starting 2015)
1998 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. BH 94. An elegant but austere wine that is almost as reticent as the ’96 with pure citrus and floral aromas that continue onto the crisp and still very tight medium-bodied flavors that are beautifully precise and impressively delineated on the gorgeously long finish. This is a long way from being ready and I wouldn’t touch a bottle for another 5 to 7 years.
Sakizuke. Aji, Snap Pea, Bell Pepper Gelee.
A welcome drink.
Zensai. Nasui Yasai, Corn Tofu, Oyster Lime, Shishito White Fish Tempura, Unagi Avocado, Fig, Wagyu Nikogori.
Shishito White Fish Tempura.
Shrimp with caviar.
Modern Zukuri. Roasted Tomatillo, Chili Sauce, Hokkaido Scallop, Finger Lime, Chayote, Turnip, Kohlrabi, Lemon Verbena Oil
Can’t remember, but it was good!
2002 Ruinart Champagne Dom Ruinart Brut Rosé. VM 95. Light, bright orange-pink. Heady mineral- and yeast-accented aromas of dried red berries, blood orange, buttered toast and tea rose. Densely packed and expansive on the palate, offering intense raspberry, cherry compote and floral pastille flavors and a smoky overtone that gains strength with aeration. The mineral quality comes back strong on the silky, focused finish, which goes on and on. An outstanding blend of power and finesse. Disgorged September, 2012.
2002 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut. BH 96. There is a subtle phenolic character to the secondary-tinged yet super-fresh nose reflects notes of baked bread, yeast, pear, baked apple, spice and a hint of citrus. The bold and full-bodied flavors possess superb complexity while being underpinned by a notably fine but dense mousse, all wrapped in a gorgeously persistent finish. This full-bodied effort is seriously impressive and one that is aging effortlessly though for my taste, it could certainly be enjoyed now. (Drink starting 2020)
Owan. Tai, Eggplant, Green Bean
Sake we bought from them.
Otsukuri. Traditional Sashimi.
Yakimono. Ayu, Duck Liver, Smoked Cherry.
Mushimono. Tomato, Lobster Shinjo, Tomato and Fennel Mochi.
From my cellar: 2011 Etienne Sauzet Chevalier-Montrachet. BH 94. A pure and elegant if very restrained nose reluctantly offers up notes of white flower, lemon zest, wet stone and an herbal tea hint. There is an equally stony character to the beautifully detailed middle weight plus flavors that possess real verve and superb depth on the gorgeously textured and markedly firm finish. This does a slow build from the mid-palate to the explosive and palate staining finish. A Zen wine of considerable understatement that will require all of a decade to arrive at its full potential. (Drink starting 2021)
2013 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet. BH 93-96. This is markedly more restrained with its reserved aromas of spice, white and yellow orchard fruit, acacia blossom and a broad array of citrus nuances. There is seriously impressive richness to the overtly powerful full-bodied flavors that possess an admirable plenitude of dry extract that completely drenches the palate on the driving and hugely long finish. As one might reasonably expect this is presently very, very backward and while this may be fully ready 12 years hence I would not be surprised if it required more like 15. Either way, this has terrific upside development potential. (Drink starting 2025)
Shiizakana. Spaghetti, Abalone, Picked Cod Roe, Truffles. Awesome as always.
Niku. A5 Miyazaki Wagyu Beef, Baby Corn.
Sunomono. Nopales, Golden Kiwi, Cucumber, Aloe, Chia Seeds.
Yuzu juice intermezzo.
They brought us some giant bottle sake.
Shokuji. Nigiri Sushi.
And more sushi, including uni/ikura.
Blue crab Hand roll.
Mizumono. Lychee Sorbet, Shiso Lime Granita
Mizumono. Ginger Poached Plum, Lavender Ice Cream, Wasabi Mochi, Honey Crumb, Tuile
Blood Peach and Ume Sorbetto, Chocolate Peanut Cream Gelato, and Caramel Fudge Marshmallow Gelato made by me for @sweetmilkgelato.
Take home gift.
Roasted green tea.
The setting is elegant, minimalist, and very Japanese. N/Naka really is a very special place. All the meals I had here were spectacular. Plus we even did an amazing all foie gras meal here once. 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.
Coming back to N/Naka after the pandemic I thought they were really firing on all cylinders. This was the best meal I’ve had there since the incredible Foie meal. I think her sushi has gone from “okay” to “great” and with regard to other dishes she has toned down a bit of the “theatrics” slightly but really upped the flavor balance and intensity. There weren’t some of the more interactive dishes of years past, like cooking your own item on hot stones, but the cooking was even more on point.
Service is also spectacular, highlighted all the more by the extremely low understaffed standard currently found in LA.
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