A Modern Kaiseki at n/naka

For my first night in Los Angeles, I made sure to make a reservation (three months in advance) at n/naka. The upscale Japanese restaurant features a modern kaiseki experience prepared by chef Niki Nakayama who was featured on episode four of the first season of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, chef Nakayama trained in the art of kaiseki, the traditional Japanese culinary practice that emphasizes the balance and seasonality of a dish, while embarking on a three-year working tour around Japan.

The restaurant offers a 13-course modern kaiseki menu for $225. There’s an optional wine paring for $95 and a sake pairing for $105. I went with the sake pairing. I have been looking forward to this dinner ever since I made the reservation!

The first sake was a Suehiro Poochi Poochi sparkling sake. It accompanied a Kumamoto oyster with turnip gelee, shiitake, mochi, pickled radish, and turnip puree. An exquisite bite to start things off!

Next was a plate of seasonal ingredients presented as an appetizer along with a Muroka Nama Junmai Ginjo sake. The presentation was lovely and included ika (squid) tempura, black cod and Shimeji mushrooms, kabocha (squash) and shiitake, tako (octopus) wasabi, and strawberry jelly. It was a fun and tasty array of flavors and textures.

A modern interpretation of sashimi with a Kiseki No Osake Junmai Ginjo from Okayama, Japan followed. The heavenly pieces of salmon sashimi were garnished with konbu (kelp), dill, avocado, bergamot kosho (orange citrus seasoning), and beets.

The next sake was an Akagisan Junmai Ginjo from Gunma, Japan. The course was Asari clams with ice plant, calamansi (small citrus fruit), dandelion, agretti (green plant), and a kindergreen dashi that was poured over everything.

Everything was incredible so far. Some fabulous seasonal sashimi was next with a glass of Born Gold Muroka Junmai Daiginjo.

I was happy to see Ginga Kogen beer pair with the next course. I’ve purchased that beer at a Japanese grocery store before. It went well with the grilled branzino with sugar pea puree and ponzu reduction.

A steamed dish of foie gras, wakame seaweed, takenoko (bamboo shoot), negi (green onion), and foie gras dashi followed up. It was paired with a Shunka Shusetsu Jumai Ginjo.

One of my favorite dishes of the night was the chef’s choice dish. It was spaghettini with abalone, pickled cod roe, and truffles. Absolutely delicious! It was paired with a nice Ikina Onna Daiginjo.

Another favorite dish followed. The incredibly tender Japanese Miyazaki A5 wagyu beef just melted in my mouth. A Izumi Judan Ginjo from Yamagata, Japan went along with it.

There were only a couple courses left. A refreshing salad with cucumber and gelee with a cup of yuzu was served before the rice course.

I was excited for the next dish of nigiri made with seasonal fish. It was paired with a Kokuryu Junmai Ginjo. A handroll and miso soup were served as well.

It was time to move on to dessert. The first dessert was a sakura (cherry blossom) ice cream float with shiso granita and umeshu (plum wine). An interesting sweet and spicy sake with plum liqueur was served with the desserts.

The final dessert was a work of art. It was composed of sakura mochi, a cherry blossom jelly and crème fraîche panna cotta, grapefruit salad sorbet curd, puffed rice, and a chocolate branch. Wow! A cup of matcha green tea and a chocolate pecan bite concluded the kaiseki.

I really enjoyed my dinner at n/naka. The dishes were beautiful and boasted delectable flavors. Chef Nakayama even stopped by my table to say hello. The service was top notch and the ambiance was very pleasant. Totally worth it! You can come back and have a different experience every time since they keep track of each diner’s visit and preferences. My first dining experience in Los Angeles was off to a great start!

3455 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 836-6252

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