Restaurant: Niku X
Location: 900 Wilshire Blvd Ste 212, Los Angeles, CA 90017. (323) 920-0302
Date: January 2, 2023
Cuisine: Chinese-owned Japanese Korean BBQ (cultural A for the win!)
Rating: Excellent neighborhood Italian
Niku X is Yakiniku (Japanese Korean BBQ), but it’s Chinese owned and operated which means it has a certain extra blind factor — at the expense of Japanese obsession with quality and detail. They describe themselves as:
JAPANESE TRADITION MEETS GLOBAL INFLUENCE
Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles at The Wilshire Grand Center, NIKU X offers modern
contemporary Japanese cuisine with global influences. NIKU X incorporates the classic yakiniku style
of cooking, a traditional Japanese technique utilized to grill meats. Michelin-starred chef, Shin
Thompson, offers an extraordinary culinary experience characterized by the use of artisanal
produce and “ranch-to-table” ingredients, including certified Japanese A5 Wagyu, in a harmonious
fusion using global techniques.
The space is HUGE and elaborately built out.
This is our “private” room.
From my cellar: 2011 Taittinger Champagne Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut. 92 points.
Crudo. A5 Toriyama Ribcap Wagyu. Spanish Bluefin Tuna. 7 Days Dry Aged Panama Kanpachi. Tamago. Fresh Wasabi, sudachi jelly, sweet shoyu creme fraiche. This was one of the weaker dishes. The beef was meh. The sweet jelly made an odd and not particularly effective contrast. I did like the sweet shoyu sauce, which tasted like maple cream. Overall it needed acidity instead of sweet.
Lobster Sashimi. Lobster Tail, black vinegar ponzu, wasabi root. They topped it with some uni and caviar and it was quite lovely.
From my cellar: NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Réserve. JG 92. This particular bottle of Brut Réserve had been in my cellar since 2008, and it has aged beautifully and was drinking very well when opened this past spring. The excellent nose wafts from the glass in a mélange of apple, peach, warm bread, a touch of ginger, a lovely base of soil and plenty of upper register smokiness. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bdoied, complex and still rock solid at the core, with fine mousse, bright acids and lovely length and grip on the wide open, complex and classy finish. This particular release of Brut Réserve had been particularly steely out of the blocks, which is why I tucked some away to see how it evolved with bottle age. Yet again, a pretty strong argument for treating non-vintage Brut bottlings like other fine wines and cellar them for some time before starting to drink them! (Drink between 2014-2025)
Uni and caviar ready to mix up.
Caviar. Astrea Oscietra Caviar, Hokkaido Uni, Stone Axe Wagyu Tarare, Senbei, Nori. The whole of this is mixed up and then served on a choice of crackers or nori. Quite nice and the nori was dry and crispy.
Crackers and nori to eat it with.
From my cellar: 2016 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Saint-Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly Cuvée Nicholas et Mathis.
12 Days Dry Aged Tyee Ora King Salmon. Sekokani Salt. Smoked.
On the grill.
12 Days Dry Aged Tyee Ora King Salmon. Sekokani Salt. Smoked. The salmon was seared and topped with a bit of Teriyaki-like sauce. Quite nice.
Radish and lettuce salad with passionfruit dressing.
Live Boston Hotate (Scallop) with Hokkaido Uni Butter. I didn’t love the scallop, not sure why.
Tilting fast into red Burgundy.
Port Wine Yakiniku Tare, Jidori egg yolk.
The show begins.
Tomohawk, already cooked.
Seared over fire.
After searing it’s sliced.
Then out comes the truffle!
Full Blood Dry Aged Wagyu Tomahawk Steak with Piedmontese White Alba Truffle. The “lighter fluid” they used to flame the steak could still be lightly tasted and I found that midly offputting.
Wagyu Oxtail Pot Stickers. Masami Ranch, Orange, Tokyo Negi. Very nice delicate bite, more like an XLB than a potsticker — and better for it.
The meat IS nicely presented.
Masami Ranch Wagyu Beef Tongue. Mushroom Duxelles, Japanese Black Vinegar, Tokyo Negi.
Stone Axe Misuji (top blade). Chrysanthemum.
Stone Axe Ichibo (top sirloin).
Masami Ranch 45 Days Dry Aged Striploin.
Masami Ranch Shortrib. Umeboshi Salted Plum Chimichurri.
A5 Miyazaki Tenderloin. Served on the toast below.
Tomahawk Tallow Fried Parmentier Potatoes. Masami Ranch Wagyu Butter, Valery Potatoes. These were great.
On the grill. They cook it for you.
Some of the cuts on the plate.
And more wine.
This was my favorite one.
Miyazaki A5 Ribeye & Wagyu Rice Donabe. Hijiki Salt, fresh wasabi Covered with Piedmontese White Alba Truffle. Pretty yummy.
Miyazaki A5 Ribeye & Wagyu Rice Donabe. Hijiki Salt, fresh wasabi Covered with Umbrian Black Winter Truffle. Pretty yummy.
And more meat.
A5 Miyazaki Tenderloin. Ginza Nishikawa Milk Bread, foie gras, blueberry gastrique. This was rich and delicious. The sweetness of the gastrique paired nicely.
The meat keeps on coming.
The wine keeps on flowing.
The raw A5 before grilling.
On the grill.
Fried rice at the ready.
A5 Miyazaki thin cut, with Wagyu Rice and Port Wine Yakiniku Tare, Jidori egg yolk. Really yummy with that slightly sweet tare.
Japanese Pickles. Nice and crunchy but didn’t have that sweet vinegar thing I really like about Japanese pickles.
Macha Mochi with fruit. The macha was way too strong here.
I love this flavor — Peppermint Bark Gelato — Base is pure peppermint milk (subbed the sugar with crushed peppermint candies) and it’s laced with house-made double-sided peppermint bark, Valrhona Dark Chocolate and Ivoire White! — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — The Peppermint Bark recipe was developed by a famous pastry chef and author, the mum of a Naughty Dog Alum @nancy_baggett — this year I added the two layer thing which is awesome — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #dessertgasm #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #peppermint #bark #Valrhona #chocolate
Overall, this was an incredibly fun night. However, it looks slightly better than it tasted. I mean it tasted good. And we had a blast, but being Chinese they rushed the service. They were super nice and super well intentioned, but they favor theatrics and they basically deluge you with food and theatrics AT THE SAME TIME. Several of the major events like the Wagyu reveal and the Tomahawk flaming were literally happening simultaneously. It should totally be sequential, but Chinese favor fast service. There is also that “fancy but cheap” Chinese build out. Ingredients are good, but they don’t quite have the flavors in perfect balance in the same way that a fully Japanese place would. But then again, given all the high end ingredients the value proposition is actually quite high. It’s just a little different than you might expect if you are used to high end Japanese dining.