Location: 4566 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016. (323) 879-9455
Date: June 2 & 11, 2022
Cuisine: Japanese Izakaya
Rating: Elevated Izakaya
The N/Naka group — the original being one of LA’s top Japanese restaurants — has recently opened a more casual Izakaya (Japanese bar food) place. One of my former cooks (and friend) even works there!
Classic Japanese frontage.
Unless you look out on the street 🙂 in which case it’s classic LA frontage.
Fizzy non alcoholic fermented drink.
2008 Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut. VM 99. The 2008 Cristal is one of the most complete, most dazzling Champagnes I have ever tasted. A stunning wine from any and all perspectives, the 2008 simply has it all. Spherical in construction, with superb persistence. The 2008 takes hold of all the senses and never gives up. One of the many things that makes the 2008 special is a combination of ripe fruit and bright, piercing acidity. Marzipan, lemon confit, dried flowers and orchard fruit all build into the explosive, resonant finish. “We learned from the mistakes of 1996, when we picked more on acid than ripeness, as was the norm in Champagne back then” Chef de Caves Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon told me recently. “In 1996, the best fruit turned out to be the last picks, where the fruit was physiologically ripe. Today, we aim to pick all our fruit with that criteria.” (Drink between 2020-2050)
From my cellar: 2007 Domaine Roulot Meursault Les Vireuils. VM 88. Slightly reduced aromas of soft citrus fruits and toasted bread. Ripe, round and nicely balanced; classically dry but not austere, with a flavor of orange dominating the palate. Not yet complex but offers lovely texture. Roulot bottled his 2007s between January and March of 2009, after storing them in cuves for five or six months. Incidentally his Bourgogne blanc, bottled in March, offers lovely floral lift and bright acid cut, and reminded me of a baby Meursault.
2011 Domaine Thenard Montrachet. BH 91-94. Here too there is visible but not intrusive wood that sets off a very closed nose, indeed this is almost mute. There is excellent volume and power to the big-bodied, intense and equally closed flavors that possess plenty of underlying tension on the tight, focused and beautifully long finish. This moderately concentrated effort is very much a work in progress. (Drink starting 2019)
Warm House Made Tofu. ginger, tosa joyu. Soy sauce on the side. Hiding in the soy milk it was made of this was soft and delicious tofu with a bit of bite from the wasabi.
Mentai Mochi. nori, mentaiko. Really delicious. High acid marinate on the onions and seaweed was really good.
Cucumber & Wakame. tosazu, ginger. Jelly version of the classic sunomono.
Carrot & Fennel Tartare. pickled fennel, chickpea miso, chips. Dips were good.
Ankimo. Sumiso, seaweed, ponzu. Really delicious. High acid marinate on the onions and seaweed was really good.
Brussels Sprouts & Salmon Skin. red onion, poached egg. Nice warm salad with good crunch.
Sashimi Moriawase. chef’s selection. Uni, scallop, toro, and others.
Sashimi Moriawase. chef’s selection.
Blue Crab Handroll.
Toro Takuan Handroll.
Shigoku oyseters. Tosazu jello, ginger. Nice bright oyster.
Shigoku oysters with uni. Tosazu jello, ginger. Nice bright oyster.
Beef Tataki. seared zabuton, crispy garlic, ponzu. Perhaps a touch overseared.
Sakamushi clams. Shiitake, dashi. Absolutely delicious garlicky broth.
Maitake Tempura. green tea salt. Very tasty.
Softshell Crab Tempura.
Steamed Seabass. shiitake, kombu, egg. Very soft and pleasant.
From my cellar: 2008 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru. VM 94. The 2008 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru (from young vines in Musigny) is a powerful, inward wine. There is lovely depth to the fruit, but the wine remains tightly coiled at this stage, even if occasional glimmers of richness emerge over time. Cloves, cinnamon and a host of other spiced notes add complexity on the finish. This is another superb, textured wine from de Vogüé. (Drink between 2018-2028)
2002 Nicolas Potel Grands-Echezeaux. VM 92-94. Red-ruby color. Penetrating, pure, highly complex aromas of raspberry, minerals, flowers and pungent spices. Wonderfully urgent and intense, with the mineral and pungent spice elements carrying through on the palate and giving the wine superb lift. Tightly wound but already showy. Finishes very long and nuanced, with fine, ripe tannins. From a selection massale planted in 1957. Very impressive.
Kurobuta Sausage. Awesome!
Bacon Tomato. A little sour.
Beef Tongue. butter lettuce, pickled red onion. Totally awesome, probably in no small park because of the pickled onions.
Miso Baked Bone Marrow. umeboshi onigiri. Rice was really crispy and nice.
Motsunabe. Tripe, daikon, cabbage. WIthout the funk this dish often has this was amazing.
Trout and Ikura Donabe. This salty and slightly fishy rice was an awesome finish.
The rice plated.
Pickles, sesame seeds, and nori for the rice.
Coffee Budino with jelly.
Yuzu Boysenberry ice cream from Ginger in Culver City.
Okinawa Yam Pudding, which has mochi (the balls), kokuto (Okinawa brown sugar), and adzuki beans. It’s topped with kokuto sauce that’s made in house and poured tableside. Very sweet!
N/Soto is a very solid addition to the extensive LA Japanese food scene. It fills a niche (more or less) vacated by MTN, a place I miss a lot. It’s not quite as approachable to Izakaya newbies as that, but definitely upscale and a little more Caucasian friendly than more classic Izakaya like Hero or Takuma. And it’s WAY WAY better than the rash of more consumer friendly “sushi + robotoyaki” type pseudo izakaya like Kappo Miyabi. Those places can be ok, but the food is really uneven. N/Soto on the other hand is quite casual, not too expensive, and has very good execution for a fairly wide array of Japanese “drink friendly” dishes.