Penultimate Meal in LA

February 28, 2015

"Here?" said the Uber driver.  "You sure?"

From the outside N/Naka does not look like a restaurant.  It's just another nondescript building on a nondescript stretch of Overland Avenue in a nondescript section of West L.A.  Inside, however, is one of the most luxurious restaurants in the city, a simple but serene setting where some twenty lucky people are treated to an extraordinary experience.

Niki Nakayama creates a long, languorous meal of modern kaiseki, a ritual meat of seasonal dishes intended as a kind of edible poetry. Oyster

 Sakizuke (something common and something uncommon):

A single kumamoto oyster with a bit of uni, cured salmon roe, a bit of fennel from the chef's garden.

Lotus

Zensai – main seasonal ingredients served as appetizers: 

Fried lotus root at the top, very rare duck on the right.  But the most exciting part of this dish is the squiggle of squid ink that, mixed into the quail egg yolk, becomes an intensely delicious sauce for the octopus hiding beneath that nasturtium leaf.

Pretty fish

Modern Sashimi

Hokkaido scallop and a bit of pomelo strewn with leaves and flowers from the chef's garden.

Sea trout

Owan – still water 

Served on top of a flame, this little bit of sea trout slowly heated in its white miso sauce.  A lovely play of temperatures, the fish still cool in the hot sauce.

Crab, etc

Tsukuri – sashimi

Many delicious little bites here, but the special treat was that Alaskan crab leg on the left:  translucent, tender and sweet.  It did not resemble, in any way the stringy frozen crab legs you may have tasted elsewhere.

Fried

Yakimono – traditionally a grilled dish, although this fish was fried int he most ethereal manner, along with a single fat fried ginko nut.

Chawan

Mushimono: steamed dish 

Crab chawan mushi, rich with uni.

 

Pasta

Shizakana

For me the most astonishing dish of the evening.  This pasta was perfectly al dente, vibrant, almost alive in the mouth.  The pickled cod roe was a perfect textural contrast. 

Wagyu 

Niku – meat course 

Wagyu cooked on a hot stone. The evening's least interesting offering. 

Pretier squid

Sunomono – vinegared salad

Firefly squid, sliced kumquat, flowers.

Followed by a rice dish.

The sushi, tonight, is:

  Burri, tuna 2

Buri, tuna 

Sayori, squid

Sayori, giant clam

Ebi, uni

Ama ebi, uni. 

Matcha

Matcha– green tea

Sorbet

Mizumono – dessert. 

A tart, icy granita, and 

Cannoli

This little cannoli. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  • Karen says:

    Penultimate? Then, what was the last dinner? Thanks

  • Ruth Reichl says:

    Hi Karen,
    My final LA dinner was a review meal with Jonathan Gold in Baldwin Hills. It was great – and you’ll read about it. But not here…..

  • KarenEE says:

    I recently had dinner here for my birthday, and really, I don’t have words to describe just how amazingly delicate *and* deeply flavored every bite was. Just amazing – so glad you are singing the chef’s praises so that she gets the recognition she so deserves.

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