N/naka ...101


#21

Thanks @CiaoBob. You’re actually being G-rated about comments made with regard to female itamae. I wanted to say more. But wasn’t sure how far to get into gender bias in the Asian family/community. I have as many Asians in my family as I do Americans - we look like the Small World ride at Disneyland. But I am not Asian myself, so wanted to be careful not to offend anyone who obviously wouldn’t know my family dynamics. Mostly good BTW.

I actually found Aesthete’s arguments interesting. But knew he could not understand the dynamics that surround Niki Nakayama, especially her career choice. I wanted to watch Chef’s Table again, before responding to him. I watched it. (glad I never read any critic’s reviews). It moved me as much as it did the first time. I relate to Niki. I was trying to figure out a tactful way of explaining things to Aesthete. But you did it for me :relaxed:.

It does make me want to go to n/naka. But we have a kid in medical school and we want to retire while we’re still young enough to enjoy it :wink:. We should do what Chowseeker1999 does. Not mess with the B-list and save for the A-list. Discipline!

Sorry folks, for going off topic. But this is an interesting subject.


#22

But see @linus, I don’t think she was averse to talking about her gender and the reactions she’s received in her profession and her family for that matter. She talked openly and movingly about it. I’m paraphrasing, but she made one comment about it’s a shame that she is thought of as a “female” itamae, but it is what it is. I didn’t see a lot of what Aesthete saw. I think she’s pretty cool.


#23

Yes @Haeldaur. That was a good post. Really interesting stuff.

I wanted to mention the brother. Their interaction told a story in itself. He clearly didn’t follow his dreams, but his little sister did. As the older son of the family, you could see how bad it bothered him. But you could also see how timid she is around him. My husband pointed out how she didn’t look him in the eye.


#24

Exactly @bulavinaka. While places like Bestia and Hatchett Hall are no doubt superb, n/naka and what she puts into it is on another plane. It’s pretty close to twilight.


#25

As @bulavinaka said - “Now that’s integrity”… On both sides.

It’s good what Bob did. If you like a place and something goes wrong, you should contact them directly. Especially, if it’s a restaurant that is not established and could be effected by negative reviews. It also gives you an idea of the integrity of the establishment by how or if they respond. I recently had that experience with a restaurant I love. They never bothered to get back to me. Very disappointing.

P.S. @CiaoBob. Maybe ipse is enjoying it. We haven’t been moved yet.


#26

The show constantly points it out from what I recall.

And the thing is, I get that it is a very touching story, and have much respect for anyone that can overcome such ridiculous absurdity. I can actually appreciate on a smaller scale what she must have gone through because in my youth I was extraordinarily obsessed with fashion, and I chose to go to fashion design school. I was the only male in the vast majority of my classes. While I am sure that wasn’t nearly as hostile of an environment, I still empathize greatly with people that do things that go against their stereotypical or “allowed” roles.

It makes for a great story obviously.

But it seems almost extra to the food. If she just an average itamae and the selling point to eat at N/Naka is her personal story, then the Chef’s Table episode is sufficient for me, I can appreciate her story and respect her, but there’s no real reason to go eat her food. Now, if you are saying that, regardless of gender, she is one of the best itamaes in the world, AND she just happens to also be a woman…then that is a very good reason to go beyond the TV show and actually wait 3 months for a table at her restaurant.

I am guessing this is somehow something that doesn’t make sense to anyone else, but for me, they are separate things. I will try to illustrate I guess… let’s say you had a brain tumor that needed operating on. You are fabulously wealthy, so let’s assume you can pick any neurosurgeon in the world, but only two are free at the moment. You can have either the best neurosurgeon in the world, but it’s a man, and he has a boring story, he went to the best schools, has performed hundreds of successful surgeries, innovated many new techniques and made neurosurgery a better practice; everyone in the field says he is the best in the world. The other neurosurgeon is fully qualified, and not bad by any means, and is a woman. She has a very exciting story about how she had to fight her family because they didn’t think she should be a doctor at all, and had to fight intense sexism at her medical schools, etc… but she finally managed to become a neurosurgeon nonetheless. She has a typical track record, and is not necessarily extraordinary, but she’s not a bad surgeon either. Her backstory is obviously way more thrilling and emotional though.

Which surgeon would you pick as your surgeon?

Another slight issue I am having here – (and this is my own issue because I am unlearned here, so I am hoping someone can explain the details of this more – is that everyone keeps talking about Japan, but we are in Los Angeles, CA. I assume you cannot get trained except in Japan, so she had to go to Japan and be trained, etc… and now she operates in CA. Is the environment just as oppressive in CA as Japan though? Another component of that is when you bring up that she is the only female itamae here, well, isn’t she the only itamae doing kaiseki at all? Doesn’t that mean she has no competition? Or are people comparing her to like Mori, Zo, Shunji, etc…?

Ok, let me end on a positive note; your other comments have been largely about food at the place, which is great. I would really love if you could go more in depth about how she differentiates the place in terms of sourcing and cooking from some other places and describe some of the things you really love about the food itself if you could. You and J_L have made the food sound appealing, but as much as I like J_L’s reviews, I think he and I have somewhat differing tastes; however, you and I clearly have quite similar ones. Of course you’re not required to do anything, but if you would be willing to write out some more in depths descriptions for me I would be exceptionally appreciative.

Maybe you could begin with describing some of the lesser known intricacies of the abalone spaghetti (something I have seen is like a standard dish there and one I would request to try if I go)? It may be a crude comparison, but, let’s say, how would you say that pasta dish is on another plane versus Bestia’s spaghetti rustichella? I know it is not a direct comparison, but I think it would be a fantastic baseline comparison to illustrate the differences and how N/Naka transcends above the other.

Anyway, again, you are not forced to do anything, I am just humbly asking, if you have some free time, and feel like writing more in depth about the food at N/Naka, I would sincerely appreciate it.


#27

F*$% it, I’m sucking it up and making a ressie even if it’s 3 months out.

I believe she’s one of the very few high end restaurants in LA that’s chef owned and she’s actually at the stove cooking! Unlike the prevalence of ‘business empire chefs’ or revolving door chefs bragging about staging 2 weeks in Noma, Mugaritz or whatever au courant bling joint


#28

[quote=“TheCookie, post:154, topic:3671”]
I have as many Asians in my family as I do Americans
[/quote]I should have said “so-called Americans”. Cultural differences aside, we’re all Americans.


#29

I do not really write descriptions like that often - it is not my preference or style. You, chowseeker, JL, offalo and many others here are so much better than I am at that, and I truly appreciate your descriptions. Me, I just like to shout out about stuff I like, love, or was disappointed in. And help people who ask for suggestions on where to go when I have a good idea.
However, I will say that the coolest part of that dish, for me, is the Pickled Cod Roe (Mentaiko). If you look at the picture you can see the little grainly little suckers all over the noodles. They add a unique flavor and, perhaps more importantly, texture to the dish that is just so surprising (almost shocking, I would say). They kind of pull the truffle and abalone together both flavor-wise and texture-wise. Same with the Miso uniting the waygu and Foie gras. Her combinations let everything join together in harmony yet the soloists stand out too. She has a true gift for tasty and beautiful combinations. The only other thing I can say is about her only true competition here in LA. Prior to the Netflix show, Urasawa was kind of LA’s standard-bearer for this type of food. And that is a fine meal, for sure - I did not think it would be “bested” (if that even makes sense), but it has been for me. I find the whole experience at n/naka is deeper, and more flavorful.


#30

Yessir.


#31

Thanks @ipsedixit. This one is fun.


#32

Unpopular opinion – I thought N/Naka was pretty average when I went about a year ago and a complete waste of money. Either I just don’t get kaiseki or I caught her on an off night, but we really regretted spending that $700.


#33

My question was going to be…cost? $700 for two? With drinks? Either way, too rich for my blood. (As we say in the South.)


#34

Yep. $700 for two with wine/sake pairing, tax and tip.


#35

Considering we recently spent >$400 at Mori with just one large beer, without even doing the full on premium omakase, $700 with the wine/sake pairing seems not too out of the ordinary.


#36

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not critical of anyone spending that much. I just can’t bring myself to. We’re going to be in Copenhagen in December and dinner with wine pairings at Noma would be in the $1k range. I just can’t. Probably a topic for a thread :slight_smile:


#37

Well, I usually can’t bring myself to either. This was a combination of an anniversary splurge and the fact that living in Minnesota means we save up our “sushi budget” for our L.A trips.

I was just noting that as far as high-end Japanese goes, n/naka doesn’t seem to be out of the norm price-wise. If I remember correctly, we were told at our meal at Mori that the full-on omakase would run $200 per (without booze). i think that’s higher than n/naka’s entry cost.


#38

Worth noting, the wine/sake pairing was fantastic. The highlight of the evening by far.


#39

[quote=“CiaoBob, post:29, topic:3857”]
I do not really write descriptions like that often - it is not my preference or style. You, chowseeker, JL, offalo and many others here are so much better than I am at that,
[/quote]Well, you did a pretty good job.

No one person can instruct another about a sense such as taste. It is a personal experience best left to explore for yourself. We can share our experiences. But requiring detailed instructions diminishes the joy of discovery. It is why I wrote n/naka is on another plane than Bestia. Not because it’s better. Because it’s an individual experience between chef and diner.


#40

Aesthete - You’re an adventurer. Just go.