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Eating at N/Naka LA
02/28/2014 (rev. 03/18/2014) by
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As a borderline 2 month anniversary of my abysmal attempts at eating a LA restaurant every week, I decided to try out this place called N/Naka in Palms.  The owner of this kaisaki-restaurant, Chef Niki Nakayama, is very meticulous with the menu and presentation in her dishes.   Reviewers like to compare this place to Urusawa (a very high end Japanese restaurant which is on my list before the end of the year), and they also often say the food is by far the BEST Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles.  Like some of my past experiences, Fox W, a well known Foodspotter, provided pictures.

This is restaurant #7 on my 2014 LA food expedition.

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1.  Saki Zuke.  Potato nest, Santa Barbara uni, caviar, and cauliflower.  This was very good.  It was light, balanced, and tasted delicious.  The sauce on the side is the cauliflower.  This was a very good starter.
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2.  Zensai.  Australian blue shrimp, ankimo & shitake, Japanese octopus, big eye tuna & avocado.
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The shrimp was borderline raw but cooked enough that you can pull it with ease from the shell.  It was deliciously sweet as well.
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The next item going clockwise was the mushroom and seared monk liver.  We were told this was a palette cleanser.  I thought the top circular filet was the monk liver, but it was a mushroom (I hate mushrooms).  The actual monk liver was really good though.
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Next to it is a decorated ornament dressed like a flower with a leaf.  The flower was a filet of big eye tuna.  The leaf was a piece of fried tempura battered seaweed, I think.  We were told to wrap the big eye tuna with the seaweed.  It was very good.  At the bottom of the plate is the octopus which was very tender.  I love the variety, taste, and presentation put into this dish.
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Because my buddy was allergic to shrimp, he instead got some type of baked lobster with truffle on top.  It looks delicious, and he confirmed it was.
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3.  Modern Zukuri.  Hokkaido scallop, English peas, sugar snap peas, and yuzu foam.  This is Chef Nakayama’s modern interpretation of sashimi.  The scallop was very good and perfectly cooked.  It was buttery, smooth, and delicately seared.  We were told to eat the scallop with the leaf as it takes away some of the sweetness associated with the scallop.  The green pea puree was created using organic peas from the Chef’s garden.  It was really good.  I was told right now it’s “pea” season, so it’s the best time to eat peas (no pun intended).
4.  Owan “Still Water”.  Loupe de mer, early spring bamboo, and dashi broth.  This was a very light soup with terrific flavor.  The bamboo was actually really good.  It did not taste like the bamboo that you usually get with ramen at most restaurants (crispy and stale).  In fact, it was much softer and tender.
The loupe (fish) was very tasty as well.  No fishiness to this, and really nothing to hide.
5.  Otsukuri.  Big eye toro, Jeju Island halibut, Kanpachi, Maine lobster, and Miitaki oyster.  This is basically traditional sashimi.  The green nugget at the edge of the plate is freshly grated wasabi.  Unlike typical Sushi restaurant grade wasabi, this was no where as spicy, but it was bold with a lot of flavor.  I took a chunk of the wasabi and added it to each tasting.  There was no need to mix the wasabi with soy sauce.  The toro was deliciously soft like butter.  The halibut with radish was also good too.  The Kanpachi was also soft and good too.  The Maine lobster inside the edible mandarin was very sweet as well.  Lastly, the Miitaki oyster was decent.  It was not the best oyster that I have had, but I like the sauce the Chef put inside.  All in all, I thought the components were all very good, and the quality was somewhat better than Sushi Zo.
6.  Yakimono.  Alaskan King crab, mitsuba, and Jidori egg.  Imagine having half a king crab leg baked in the oven with a mayonnaise type sauce on top.  This simply was awesome.  There was a lot of crab meat, and it was succulent and sweet.  At the end, I not only finished the leg, but I also was licking the inside of the shell like a barbarian.  Whatever sauce the Chef used was very good.  I recall the waitress saying there were some mushrooms, but I didn’t really taste any.  It’s that good.
7.  Mushimono.  Sea bass and sato imo taro potatoes.  The chilean sea bass sits in this massive bowl of broth and taro potatoes.  There’s a spout towards the side, so you can drink it like a civilized person (where you pour it into your soup spoon) or be like me and just pour it straight in my mouth.  The broth, like the Owan, was light, but it had excellent flavors from the fish and taro mixed together.
8.  Shiizakana.  Abalone, spaghettini, pickled cod roe, and winter truffles.  This was very good, so good in fact it made me think of wanting to order a batch of this to go.  The abalone was nice and semi crisp.  The cod roe with winter truffles were exploding with flavor, so I can understand why so many people have raved about this on their reviews.
9.  Niku.  Japanese A5 wagyu steak.  The steak was so buttery and tender.  It came with fingerling potatoes, asparagus, and what tasted like horseradish puree.
10.  Sunomono.  Fanny bay oysters and yuzu vinegar.  The oyster was very sweet similar to a kumamoto.  The little bowl to the right is actually mandarin infused sake.  Both were really good.

11.  Shokuji One & Two
.  Madai, o-toro, aji, live sweet shrimp, mirugai clam, uni, soba with dashi broth.  Pictures are below.  This is simply the “filler” course where the chef tries to fill you up.  Keep in mind none of these really needed any soy sauce and could be simply eaten as is.  The sushi was seasoned in both the rice and the fish, so it wasn’t needed.  We were served some pickled ginger, but I despise ginger.
Madai is a red sea bream (popular in Japan).  The meat is white.  Next to it is the toro.  Both were excellent, and in some ways much better than Sushi Zo.  The toro was literally fat-melt-in-your-mouth.
Next was the aji (Spanish mackerel) and mirugai clam.  The aji was really good.  It was room temperature and was very soft.  The clam was excellent as well.  I was expecting a crispy texture to the clam, but it was surprisingly soft.
Next was the live sweet shrimp and uni.  The shrimp was very sweet.  The uni was good too and very sweet.  Unlike some other uni I had, this one was bold in flavor and sweetness.  The taste lingered (in a good way) after eating it.
To substitute for a buddy of mine since he’s allergic to shrimp, the Chef gave him seared toro.  He was speechless on how good it was.
The soba with dashi broth was a nice closer to this course.  It’s basically buckwheat noodles with a side of the tempura batter served on the side.  The dashi broth was not salty at all, thankfully, and was perfectly light and forgiving.
12.  Dessert.  Chestnut crepe and chocolate pot de creme.  This was really good as well.  The chocolate was light and not overly sweet.  There was some creme in the crepe, and it too was good.  The balance in flavor of being perfectly sweet is unreal.

They also gave us some green tea matcha which was quite bitter.  We were told it helps with the digestion since we ate so much, and it certainly did.Of all the restaurants I’ve been to in my short time in LA, this so far has been up there with the best.  It’s tied with Ink, and in some ways also surpasses it.  The Chef at the end of our dinner greeted us.  She’s so nice and grateful, and her food shows a lot about how she values her guests.  If Michael Voltaggio didn’t make my food at Ink, I would easily say this is the best upscale restaurant I have been to in LA so far.

Visit: N/Naka, Palms, LA
#7 of 52 2014 LA food expedition
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