Chef’s Tasting Menu and Wine Pairing Selection to celebrate my 60th birthday*
This was one of the top three meals of my life. Three hours of bliss. Pure art, pure and complex flavors, elegantly presented and enjoyed.
You can visit n/naka next time you are in Culver City
“The whole of a meal is as important as the sum of its parts. At n/naka, we are devoted to providing a unique and satisfying dining experience through our interpretation of kaiseki. This traditional Japanese culinary art form reflects the ever-changing rhythms of the earth by taking the freshest seasonal ingredients and presenting them in their most natural states. Using the very best ingredients we have access to is true kaiseki; we proudly serve vegetables from our own organic garden built and maintained by our friends at Farmscape Gardens. We take great care in preparing a beautiful plate and believe that the more involvement we put into a meal — no shortcuts — the more connected we feel to the food and to your experience of it. Through a meaningful balance of both traditional and modern techniques, Chef Niki Nakayama is committed to creating a meal that will engage your attention — it’s about enjoying the moment, the current offerings of the season, and ultimately, the food in front of you.”
The evening of Monday, July 16th, 2013
Descriptions provided by n/naka. Photos by me.
Saki Zuke (A pairing of something common and something unique)
A perfect medley of textures and tastes to start your meal: gelee of tomato puree and dashi broth, Haas avocado wrapped around fresh lobster and topped with uni from Santa Barbara, fennel and a flower petal of pansy.
French Sparkling Wine, Domaine Rosier ‘Cuvee Jean-Philippe”, Blanquette de Limoux, France 2010
Zensai (Main seasonal ingredient presented as an appetizer)
Grilled blue shrimp topped with yuzu cream, butter foam, bulls blood beet chip, leaf of water cress
Verdejo, Martinsancho, Rueda, Spain 2010
Modern Zakuri (A modern interpretation of a sashimi course)
Toro Tartare: Otoro mixed with white scallions, topped with ponzu reduction, uni butter and fresh chives, dashi broth
Pinot Blanc, Dopff and Irion, Alsace, France 2008
Kumamoto oyster with ponzu and lemon, Tai (sea bream), Kanpachi (Amberjack), and Maguro tuna, served with freshly grated wasabi from Japan, and Niki’s special soy sauce (lighter so you can taste the quality and freshness of the fish)
Sake Junmai Ginjo, “Shichida” Tenzen Brewery, Saga, Japan
Mushimono (Steamed dish)
Seabass tororo: Steamed Seabass, grated Japanese mountain potato, shitake and mizuba leaf in a dashi broth
Muller Thurgaeu, Kurtatsch Cortaccia, Alto Adige, Italy 2009
Shiizakana (the Chef’s choice, not bound by tradition)
Spaghettini with Black Abalone from Monterey, Pickled Cod Roe, Shaved Italian Summer Truffles, Garlic and Soy. Topped with Daikon Radish Sprouts.
Greco di Tufo, Villa Mathilde, Campania, Italy 2010
Niku (Meat course)
Rib eye angus steak with kabocha, broccolini and lunar carrots from our chef’s garden.
Elke (Pinot Noir), Anderson Valley, California, Pinot Noir 2007
Tai (Japanese Snapper); O-toro of Big-eyed Tuna; Wild Aji (Spanish Mackrel); Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp); Fresh Uni (Sea Urchin); Seared Toro
Sake Junmai Yamahai Karakuchi, “Shichida” Tenzen Brewery, Saga, Japan
Flourless white chocolate green tea cake, a dusting of matcha powder, crème brulee of black sesame; Hojicha Tea (naturally decaf and made from roasted green tea leaves)
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Delas, Rhone Valley, France 2010
“Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, chef Niki Nakayama began her career at the renowned Takao restaurant in Brentwood, working under the guidance of esteemed chefs Takao Izumida and Morihiro Onodera. Committed to exploring new techniques, Niki embarked on a three-year working tour throughout Japan, sampling her way through different regional flavors and immersing herself in the essentials of Japanese cuisine, both traditional and cutting-edge. While working at Shirakawa-Ya Ryokan, (Japanese inn owned by relatives) Niki trained under chef Masa Sato in the art of kaiseki the traditional Japanese culinary practice that emphasizes the balance and seasonality of a dish.
Upon her return to Los Angeles, Niki opened her first restaurant – Azami Sushi Cafe, which quickly became known for Niki’s popular omakase menu. Azami was an immediate LA staple, touted by Zagat and the Los Angeles Times in addition to earning Citysearch’s “Best of Sushi” distinction in 2006.
Inaka, Niki’s ambitious second venture, functioned as a gourmet Japanese take-out by day and an intimate eight-course chef’s table by night. Focusing on tasting menus allowed Niki to do what she enjoys – and thrives in – most: creating a thoughtful and cohesive series of dishes that provides a personal experience for each diner.
n/naka has been ten years in the making and is the expansion of Niki’s previous endeavors, applying the artistic and technical notions of kaiseki to create an ever-evolving seasonal narrative within each meal.”
If you have never had a chance to explore a meal over a three hour period in any cuisine, with a chef whom you know will reward your trust in their vision with a stunning meal, you need to put this on your list of things to do.
This was true when we did the Tasting Menu at Pure Food and Wine 3 years ago, which started me on my Raw Food journey. I have always loved Japanese cuisine and this was an epic adventure.
Since originally writing about this meal Netflix produced their Chef’s Table series and did an episode on Chef Niki and na-naka – you can see it here.