Restaurant: N/Naka [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
Location: 3455 S. Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034. 310.836.6252
Date: May 31, 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 unusual Spanish white earn 92 from Parker, “The 2007 Gorvia Blanco was sourced from a single 3 acre vineyard planted exclusively to the indigenous variety Dona Blanca (used in the past mostly for grappa production or as a table grape). Medium straw-colored, it reveals aromas of apple, pear, slate/mineral, citrus, and acacia. Crisp, concentrated, and intense (in the style of top-level unoaked Chablis), in the mouth it is vibrant, complex, and impeccably balanced. It should provide both intellectual and sensual pleasure for another 5-6 years.”
“Saki Zuke (A pairing of something common and something unique) – Goma Dofu – Fresh Tofu of Sesame and Green Tea topped with a Knuckle of Maine Lobster, Uni from Santa Barbara, a Flower of Pansy from Niki’s Garden, Gold Leaf and a Smokey Dashi.”
After the dashi (fish broth) is added. I love these opening dishes of Niki’s as they are intensely subtle and Japanese. There was a very fresh summer feel to it.
“Sakizuke (A pairing of something common and something unique) – Goma Dofu – Sesame and Green Tea Tofu topped with a Tie of Green Asparagus, Leaf of Red-veined Sorrel, Gold Flake and a Flower of Pansy from Niki’s Garden and Dashi.” This is the vegetarian version of the above lobster dish. In general, two or three variants of each dish will be represented. First the “normal” version, then vegetarian, and then sometimes followed by a special diet version.
“White Asparagus Tofu topped with Ikura, Baby White Asparagus, Red-veined Sorrel, a Flower of Pansy from Niki’s Garden, Butter.”
“Zensai (Main seasonal ingrediant presented as an appetizer) – Pan-seared Tasmanian Sea Trout, Roasted Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, Meyer Lemon with a Green Asparagus Butter, Ponzu Reduction and a Chip of Bull Blood Beet.”
“Zensai (Main seasonal ingrediant presented as an appetizer) – A Roll of Shiitake Mushrooms, Haricot Verts wrapped in Leaves of Kale and served with a Sauce of Sesame Seeds.” Vegetarian substitute for the salmon.
“Modern Zakuri (A modern interpretation of sashimi) – Diver Scallop from Hokkaido, Japan topped with shaved Italian Summer Truffles, Drops of Ponzu Reduction, Fresh Lemon, Dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano and Zest of Yuzu and garnished with Daikon Radish Sprouts and a Flower of Borage from Niki’s Garden.” Hokkaido scallops are divine.
“Modern Zakuri (A modern interpretation of sashimi) – Roasted Bull’s Blood Beets with Roasted Nasu (Baby Japanese Eggplant), Leaves of Cress, Shaved Parmesean Reggiano and a Vinaigrette of Balsamic and Hazelnut.”
The vegetarians get this instead of the scallops, with a drizzled sauce.
“Tartare of O-toro of Baby Spanish Blue Fin Tuna, White Scallions, Caviar of American White Sturgeon, Chives, Soy Reduction and Dashi.”
2007 Montenidoli “Carato” Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The current release is, yes, five years old from the first Vernaccia to be aged in Barrique from a fine selection of free run grape musts, one can taste and feel the Leroy influence here. Deep minerality floated in creamy clouds. Grandiose, wild, and important. Here’s a pic of where this wine comes from. I discovered it last summer while Eating Italy.
“Otsukuri (Sashimi) – Maguro (Tuna) of Spanish Baby Blue Fin Tuna, Hirame (Live Halibut from Jeju, Korea), Kumamoto Oyster and Ponzu, Kanpachi (Amber Jack) with Freshly Grated Wasabi and Niki’s Special Soy Sauce.”
“Otsukuri (Sashimi) – Roasted Kabocha Squash, Black Konnyaku, Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, White Asparagus Tofu, Nanohana.” Vegetarian sub.
Uni instead of oyster for a special diet person.
“Agemono (Deep fried dish) – Fried 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 in the thick sweet sauce until the bones grow soft, then wrapped in the lettuce and eaten like a taco.
“Mushimono (Steamed dish) / Agemono (Fried dish) – Chawanmushi – A traditional Egg Custard with Shiitake Mushrooms and Shaved Italian Summer Truffles; Tempura of Yamaimo, Carrot and Shiitake Mushroom with accoupaments of Fresh Lemon and Okanawan Finishing Salt.”
The vegetarians had this custard (pictured here in more clarity) and the carrot/mushroom fritter.
Parker 98! “Unquestionably one of the vintage’s finest wines, Jadot’s 2003 Bonnes Mares bursts with roses, violets, cassis liqueur, and black cherries. Armed with magnificent depth, concentration, and extraction, this full-bodied beauty expands on the palate to reveal oodles of black cherries slathered in chocolate. Its finish, which lasts for a minute, reveals additional layers of jammy fruit as well as loads of sweet, round tannin. Though immensely ripe and low in acidity, this gem has the profundity of fruit and structure for considerable cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2022+.”
“Shiizakana (Not bound by tradition, the Chef’s choice dish) – Spaghettini Vongole ala Niki – Fresh Manila Clams sauteed in a Sauce of Roasted Garlic and Campari Tomato Cream.” A different, but exceptional, take on spaghetti with clam sauce.
“Shiizakana (Not bound by tradition, the Chef’s choice dish) – Spaghettini with Shaved Italian Summer Truffles in a Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce, Daikon Radish Sprouts.” Vegetarian sub.
“Spaghettini with Meintako (Pickled Cod Roe) and Italian Summer Truffles.”
“Niku (Meat Course) – American Natural Angus Beef Rib Eye served along side a canele of Russet Potato and Leek Mashed, Roasted Carrots and a Ponzu Demi-jus.”
“Roasted Vegetable Course– Roasted Loaf of Tofu and Mochi with a Spicy Ponzu Sauce.” Vegetarian sub.
Sake- shichida, sago japan. This is an ultra-ultra rare sake. It comes in various types. I’ve had the sweeter type before, but this is the dry one. The previous one was one of the best sakes I’ve ever had. This was merely good.
“Shokuji One & Two (Rice dish –Sushi) – Tai (left), O-toro (Fatty Tuna) of Spanish Baby Blue Fin (right).”
” Shokuji One & Two (Rice dish –Sushi) – Baby Cucumber with a Plum Sauce (left); Avocado; Okra, Roasted Nasu (right).”
“Amaebi (Sweet Raw Shrimp, right), Aji (Spanish Mackrel, left).”
“Roasted Shiitake Mushroom (right); Roasted Kabocha Squash (left).”
“Uni (Sea Urchin) from Santa Barbara, Seared Toro (Fatty Tuna).”
“Miso Soup with Head of Amaebi.” It’s traditional to recycle the shrimp head in miso soup. This makes for a more briny oceanic miso.
” Soba – Traditional Buckwheat Noodles in a Vegetarian Broth with Shaved Scallions.”
“Dessert – On a sweep of a Sauce of Dark Caramel sits a Cheesecake of Kabocha Squash rolled in Graham Cracker Crumbles, Whipped Cream, Fresh Organic Fruits of Blueberry, Strawberry and Kiwi; Crème Brulee of Sesame Seeds.” Both were great, particularly the Crème Brulee.
N/Naka really is a very special place. All the meals I had here were spectacular (here for the first, here for the second). This third was, if possible, slightly more refined, which was always 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.
Click here to other LA Japanese restaurants.