N/naka - Culver City

Having been underwhelmed by the ever popular n/naka in 2015, I hadn’t had interest to go back…but I figure that my fiancée should try it at least once since it certainly has the right atmosphere to celebrate her birthday!

Reservation: I’m not gonna lie. It’s impossible. I tried going through the regular route of camping out on Resy at 10AM every Sunday but that proved to be a futile exercise. Next, I tried to get Visa Signature Concierge and American Experss Platinum Concierge to help but no dice. In the end, I lucked out since a friend of a friend is a friend of the chef…

Parking: EZPZ neighborhood parking nearby with plenty of open spots.

Service: From start to finish, it was roughly 3 hours or so. Pacing of the meal was excellent and consistent throughout. I would chalk that up to the kitchen now staffing enough cooks to handle the intricate menu. Also, shout out to the unusually warm and welcoming front of the house staff.

Summary: I came away feeling pretty darn good about the meal overall. It was much better than I remember with some very strong cooked dishes and intricacy of the menu is now exponentially higher. The main weakness of n/naka, IMHO, are their nigiri. While the knife work was suspect on certain pieces, the bigger problem was the rice and its formation. Flavor of the rice was fine but texture was a bit soft and too sticky so I never came away with the airiness and effortless feel of the rice breaking apart in my mouth like I had at Mori or SGO…and to a lesser degree…Shin. Thankfully, the dessert game at n/naka was very strong this time around. Heck, did they even have a pastry chef back in 2015?

Do they deserve 3 McChelin stars? I don’t think so. 2 stars? Maybe…but their nigiri game isn’t even up to par with other 1 star sushi-yas in LA but I digress…What are your thoughts?


You get to pick your own sake cup for their welcome drink.


I totally missed what it is but it’s light and refreshing with sweet notes of what I think is plum.


My weapon of choice…


Her weapon of choice…


amaebi, caviar smoked avocado, lima beans


Fans of Hayato will immediately recognize the similarity of this spot prawn course with the snappy raw prawn paired with beans and vingear dashi jelly. The twist here is the smoked avocado giving the dish further smokey notes and creaminess while the caviar flavors the dish with briny goodness. There are also some grilled brain food in the back waiting to be slurped up! @TheCookie


a. ebi shinjo - har-gow’s brother from another mother
b. ika nuta - firefly squid is slightly underseasoned but love the squirting guts
c. enoki tempura - perfectly fried
d. kegani - can’t go wrong with japanese hairy crab with kanimiso
e. mozuku - love the noodle-like seaweed with freshness and punchy acidity
f. miyazaki wagyu cannoli - similar idea but slight downgrade from Providence’s wagyu cigar
g. harry’s berries strawberries - harry’s my guy! these are sugar sweet!


plum ponzu for the upcoming course


katsuo (bonito), myoga, coconut snow, garlic, grape
A fine rendition of katsuo with the modern twist being the pungent garlic chip and coconut snow offering a touch of exotic sweetness to the lean bonito. I have to admit, the flavor of the bonito is a far cry from the one I had at SGO’s a few weeks ago…

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dashi, santa barbara rock fish, tofu, wakame
I love how n/naka makes their own dashi in-house from start to finish! They source local bonito and dry and smoke them in-house. The end result? Their dashi is lighter and flavor is more rounded.

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soy sauce for the upcoming sashimi course

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maguro, kinmedai, hokkaido hotatekai, shima-aji
Textbook stuff but not particular memorable.


grilled branzino, arimayaki, smoked cherry
Fish is perfectly cooked with the sancho pepper crust flavoring the juicy flesh.


steamed lobster, uni, potato, campari tomato, ankake dashi
There’s thickened tomato dashi and fluffy eggs. The Chinese is no stranger to this particular flavor combination but I’m not quite sure how it works together with the uni and lobster.


spaghetti, abalone, pickled cod roe, truffles
No doubt it’s still the most accomplished dish at n/naka. The abalone slices are mostly there for a snappy texture but the combination of earthy Italian truffle, buttery sauce, and the perfect chew of the spaghetti is unparalleled.


a5 miyazaki wagyu, baby corn, fermented lemon, pea tendrils
Love the fermented lemon. It’s like a savory but mildly lemony puree that offers the perfect amount of acidity to cut through the a5 wagyu’s richness.


cucumber, wakame, grapes, yuzu sake
Refreshing


pickled ginger that are on the sweet side signals the start of nigiri city


tai


big eye tuna
Oversauced. Soy sauce overwhelmed the flavor, or lack thereof, of the big eye tuna.


miso soup


aji


nodoguro
This is always a crowd pleaser.


japanese wagyu
Another crowd pleaser with the richness of the wagyu pleasantly intertwined with the acidic ponzu.


hokkaido uni & ikura
Love the crispy seaweed.


crab handroll


tomato sorbet, green tomato jelly, cucumber and lime granita
Another very refreshing dessert with granita offering just enough brightness to offset the sweetness of the velvety tomato sorbet.


roasted black sesame pudding, white sesame cream, almond brisee, harry’s berries strawberry, puffed rice
A nice ending here with what is essentially a sesame tart with sorbet made out of harry’s berries strawberries.


matcha tea


matcha cake, sancho pepper, hazelnut truffles
Birthday freebies is always a nice touch!


n/naka
3455 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034

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@beefnoguy for your enjoyment!

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@porkybelly righteous!

20190619_191802

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where’s the after-dinner bang?

big eye?

A food truck serving chicken wings. When I saw that they were dropping prepackaged frozen wings straight to the fryer, I knew I fucked up.

6 dry and flavorless wings for $8.
20190619_213552

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Maybe it’s just flavorless bluefin? :lying_face:

Name? So that I don’t accidentally go there

I don’t remember! Munchiez or something like that in El Sereno.

should have went to mee & greet. for shame.

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Nice report. Somehow the pictures conveyed the joy of having a nice meal with one’s significant other on a special ocassion .

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They seem to have found there footing a bit more. I’ve noticed it’s more consistently busy. Still just a good for the area kind of place but I’m happy to see them doing better

Thanks so much for the detailed report and sake menu @moonboy403! Much appreciated.

As long as the missus had a great time, then it’s all good. Glad to see and hear they have improved since the last reports from others. I would agree with you on the McChelin (over)value, but I think it’s obvious why LA inspectors and some people fell in love with the place (and it is also no wonder why the wine fiends bring their own instead of order from them).

Regarding your comment on SGO’s katsuo, that piece looked marinated (zuke) and would thus yield a far more intense flavor profile that is better suited to also pair with alcohol. n/Naka’s just looks seared but not much else going on (even the color is lighter). The onions, garlic, and a little ponzu is classic and maybe works for warmer weather enjoyment, but if the fish itself is not complex enough (it’s also lean), then there’s only so much those accoutrements will do.

For what they charge $225 (is that right)? That’s opportunity cost for Californios :-o

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Good observation…would a marinated piece yield a softer mouth feel and a more luscious texture too? SGO’s katsuo felt like a way fattier piece for some reason. We didn’t really get to ask Yohei-san anything since his English is somewhat limited.

Yup. Felt like a fair price but definitely not as accomplished as Californios.

It depends on the bonito sourcing, handling of the product, and the amount of effort in the preparation. It needs to be cured in salt first to draw out moisture and kill parasites, then smoked over straw (or find other ways to sear which is not as aromatic). Some schools of prep include an ice bath in that process somewhere post smoking. Some of the very high end places might age it somewhere along the line before the smoking. Zuke would give it a more rounded feel (not sure about the softness) but the results will depend on experience. Hope you can try Sushi Yoshizumi’s version sometime who does it very very nicely.

The fat content could depend on where it was caught and at what point, plus also the size of the fish, and possible n/Naka’s cut was not the belly.

Seems like there could be other opportunities to have more seasonal American seafood in this tasting menu that makes more sense, like raw oysters, or Copper River King Salmon. Or just throw in more abalone on the pasta, with liver sauce.

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Def doesn’t look like 2 michelin starred food to me.

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Eater seems to insist that n/naka deserves 3. I really wonder what the reasoning is behind it…

2 doesn’t seem too much of a stretch minus the nigiri.

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SGO has really good sourcing IMO. My tuna earlier in the week was from Okinawa, great flavor.

Thanks for update. Tried N/Naka a few times when they first opened. Liked a lot back then. Might be time to revisit, if I can get in!

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Welcome to FTC! They’re moving to Tock soon so it should be easier to make resy then.