Nice Ambiance, Pretty Plating, Pleasant and Underwhelming - n/naka [Thoughts + Pics]


#22

I don’t know that I will ever (get to) eat at n/naka but just want to note that Shunji and Mori are not really (much) cheaper if you do the bigger omakases. I think our last nigiri-only omakase at Mori came out to $225/head with tax/tip, and it wasn’t the premium omakase.


#23

Thanks @PorkyBelly. Oh, was the portion you got much bigger? Did they reduce the portion size over time? Just curious.

Yah if that spaghetti dish was actually hot (or even warm) I think it would’ve been much better.


#24

I don’t generally drink sake at home but I think for my price point Born Gold is more my speed. There are a couple of other sake you highlighted that are available at Hi Times in the $20-$30 range that I save in the notes section on my phone.

Thanks for your in depth knowledge and recommendations. They always come in handy.


#25

The Born Gold I’m not a huge fan of myself but is an excellent cost effective Junmai Daiginjo. On top of that it is single pasteurized (most sake are double pasteurized) so it gives it a pseudo unpasteurized/nama sake feel. So when you buy it from any source, make sure it has been properly stored/chilled. As great of a selection Hi Time is, sometimes I do wonder about the storage of some of their sake.

But now that you’ve had Dreams Come True, it’s hard to go back to the Gold. But to be fair it’s a cost effective pick from the menu.

For anyone who digs the Gold and wants to explore single pasteurized goodness further, and if it is available in LA, go for Gasanryu (Gokugetsu Junmai Daiginjo or Kisaragi Daiginjo), I mentioned this in the Mori thread and these are likely far tastier than the Gold and better structured.


#26

Thanks @Ns1. Yah, for us, we only ordered 1 bottle of one of their cheapest Sake on the menu, and it brought us to about $300 per person.

And it’s your high esteem of this place (and other veteran FTC’ers) that makes us want to go back and give it another try. Thanks.


#27

I mean to be clear, I’m not proclaiming that everything knocks it out of the park. I would agree with the general assessment that there are a few hits and many safe dishes. That said, my “safe” dishes were clearly executed better than yours, or I have lower standards - probably somewhere in the middle.

IN GENERAL my meals at Raku have been superior to n/naka, but n/naka makes a much better special destination kinda place so that’s what it is for me.

YMMV, and it sucks it didn’t work out for you.

This meal didn’t take place in the 2nd week of Dec did it?


#28

Hi @Ns1,

Thanks. Oh I agree about the ambiance and destination feel; it was really nice for decor, clean, yet warm, and a great date spot. :slight_smile:

And no, it wasn’t then. I do want to give it another try. Thanks!


#29

In the interests of furthering my understanding of sushi can I ask the real sushi mavens to opine on the cuts/presentation of the scallop and the mackerel? Neither look very precise or attractive to me but I’m probably not seeing the right things.


#30

I’m totally intimidated by high-end sushi! I def enjoy sushi, but I dont’ think my palette is particularly well developed, and I’m not very knowledgable. I sort of wonder if high-end stuff will be wasted on me. I can, for example, taste the difference btw the bento box at Tsujita and cheaper stuff and think it’s worth the cost, but I wouldn’t be able to explain why. So I’m scared that I’ll blow a ton of $$$ at a place like Shunji and leave confused and disappointed. Maybe I should try it at lunch?


#31

Hi @MyAnnoyingOpinions,

Thanks. Yah it can get up there if you add in / open to everything special offered that evening (e.g., Kegani (Hairy Crab) from Hokkaido as an add-on, etc.). But Shunji can range from ~$125 (the cheapest visit we had with no special add-ons, to about $175 (total)), definitely cheaper than n/naka. Mori is higher, but we’ve had a couple visits were it was about $190 (total) per person (we didn’t add on any extra courses)). Thanks.


#32

Hi @paranoidgarliclover,

From your helpful reports back on places you’ve visited, and all your contributions here on FTC (and our old board), I think you have a well-developed palate and appreciation of great food. :wink: I don’t think it’d be wasted on you at all! You know good food. :slight_smile:

That being said, if you’re worried, then “yes,” definitely feel free to try Shunji for Lunch instead (call ahead and ask if Shunji-san is in that day for Lunch, and ask to be seated in front of him). You can order the $40 Lunch Special, and then chat with Shunji-san to add on a couple more pieces of whatever’s fresh and that you might like more (e.g., the lighter more delicate whitefish like Snapper, Sea Bream, or if you like shellfish (Scallops, Geoduck, various Clam-family offerings (Tairagai (Pen Shell Clam), etc.), or maybe you like the stronger, bolder, oilier fish (Mackerel, Kohada (Gizzard Shad), etc.).

Shunji-san is so nice and you can chat with the sushi chef to see what fish you’re really enjoying that visit and go from there. :slight_smile:


#33

Last time I did Mori, the omakase was $275. Ended up being close to 1K for two with tax/tip and sake.


#34

Thanks @ilykejordans. Yah it can definitely range up or down depending on what’s offered that night, if one adds a few more courses or is more or less hungry. The cheapest visit we had, we didn’t add any bonus courses and weren’t overly hungry (I think we might’ve even asked to finish things up a little earlier than the usual full gamut). Good to know, thanks.


#35

Going back to California Kaiseki concept that was pushed in the documentary.

One of the tenants of kaiseki or washoku (Japanese cuisine) is the emphasis of “shun” or seasonality.
It’s easy to find examples of this at the high end sushi bar as people know clearly for example, when katsuo migrate outward and return, or that sanma signals fall, and the Japanese salivate when ayu is in season. With Ayu you just do salt grill. In Japan seasonal fruit is also delightful and the applications for them endless. I’ve had fall season persimmons with a simple sesame sauce at a tempura and kaiseki place for dessert, and for another kappo izayaka it was served as an appetizer coated with a tofu shirae sauce. A bit more than just “figs on a plate”, but with an emphasis of being able to taste the natural flavors of the ingredient.

In California, we don’t seem to have a breadth of seafood or produce that screams seasonality as much. Sure Dungies in October, fall (ish) maybe for Santa Barbara uni, and specific months for wild salmon (whether from Northern California or Alaskan King [ok that’s not California], Copper River etc). Farmers markets show seasonality, but my favorite fruit varietals seem to show up more during the summer and if we have extreme weather, the quality and harvest suffers greatly. Perhaps I see this more in subtle ways at the Michelin San Francisco fine dining places, though more so with a broader spectrum (beyond California), but I’m not so sure I can detect it, at least definitely not based on photos with n/Naka.

It’s perfectly fine to attempt California Kaiseki if there is a theme of seasonality and you can truly sense it. I believe in the Gelb documentary there was some mention of seasonality. So having that “pickled” apple whole in the course threw me off. Isn’t that “figs on a plate”?

Regarding the questions posed on the saba and scallop… The saba has a little pink reddish hue but it doesn’t look so vibrant…plus you see a gradation of grey to the side with a glisten that appears to be fat but in the end can’t really tell. It’s definitely a far cry from high end omakase saba. The scallop looks rather textbook, and perhaps it was pre-frozen at some point, nothing wrong with that and usually they also still taste ok. A fresh never frozen scallop shouldn’t look like that (with cracks and all). I wouldn’t have a problem if this was served to me at a low end neighborhood joint. I think the bottom line here is that just based on the photos of the nigiri course, they had a line cook handle and obviously put the least amount of effort and skill in it.
The blue crab salad handroll looks really sad and maybe even the LA spinoffs of Nozawa can do better (seems like more rice than crab). Why not do a California roll as part of the course instead of nigiri? Ripe premium haas Avocado, King Crab, Japanese cucumber, premium Cal Rose rice. I’m sure someone can turn this kaiseki-esque and have fun with it and it will still be California themed! Or pair Santa Barbara uni with something very Caliifornian or something from artisanal farms (lol with Haas avocado toast).


#36

I was thinking the same as I scrolled through the photos. It looks like a nice omakase somewhere, but not especially seasonal. Persimmons, oysters, crab, turnips, greens, winter squash and radish are some of the things I would expect this time of year.

Even apples aren’t in season right now, though available.


#37

OP will have to clarify whether this meal was fall or winter.


#38

Hi All,

It was winter. Thanks.


#39

Thanks for the thoughtful reply @beefnoguy. :slight_smile: Great points on some of the limitations of seasonality we might have locally (hey it was 80 degrees today in Winter!). :sweat_smile:

I’m not joking when saying that the last blue crab handroll we had at Kazunori (from Nozawa) was better than the one we had at this meal, because at least the nori was crisp (not super crisp like Mori Sushi, but at least some crispness and slight crunch). :frowning:


#40

A post on another n/naka thread made me curious to see if any of the FTC sushi mavens had commented on this and I see they haven’t. I’m still curious to know what the cognoscenti make of these pieces.


#41

This!.. is what I think when I read this review. Last night, $75. per + tip, with Sake corkage. Fantastic!