N/naka - Culver City

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.


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.

The funny thing is, early on (back when reservations were easy) I was worried that N/Naka wasn’t going to survive. Glad I was proven wrong.

Then Netflix’s Chef’s Table happened and they never had an empty table since!

“The funny thing is, early on (back when reservations were easy) I was worried that N/Naka wasn’t going to survive. Glad I was proven wrong.”

I had to check to make sure I didn’t make this post. Word for word I had the same thought. I suspect I was one of their best customers - and it was easy to get in. And then…Chef’s Table brought them fame and fortune and I couldn’t get a fucking reservation! Tock? Great! Looking forward to it.

I had a feeling they might not survive or they were barely surviving before Chef’s Table. At the time I heard it was only Niki and her girlfriend in the kitchen which is a sign of financial hardship usually.

McChelin inflation strikes again! Price went up by a little over 22%.

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reservations can now be made on Tock.

welp, looks like nobody’s getting a res now.

N/Naka, Los Angeles, California, USA

I said it the first time I ate at n/naka more than five years ago, and I’ll say it again now: Meals at Niki Nakayama’s small, elegant restaurant unfold like poetry, flavors and dishes acting as phrases and stanzas in one long, lyrical, and utterly profound experience.

Nakayama was born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles but spent years in Japan training in the art of kaiseki, the traditional, multi-course Japanese style of dining that focuses on seasonality and ritual. In 2011 she opened n/naka in an unmarked building on an unremarkable stretch of road in Palms, a mostly residential neighborhood in West Los Angeles. There, along with her sous chef and wife Carole Iida-Nakayama, Nakayama presents an intensely personal version of kaiseki, one that is almost as Californian as it is Japanese.

Over 12 courses, diners move through a series of complex dishes that showcase seasonal Southern Californian ingredients assembled in elaborate and beautiful combinations. Raw wild sea bream comes curled on the plate, intertwined with celtuce, Jade Beauty green tomato, buddha’s hand citron, and hibiscus and begonia flowers, and seasoned lightly with ume ponzu. Traditional sashimi is followed by a grilled dish of Spanish mackerel with kelp and black garlic oil, then a steamed dish of sweet shrimp with Santa Barbara uni.

Nakayama and her staff practice omotenashi, a style of service that places empathy above all else. N/naka exudes a quiet welcome that touches every aspect of the meal, from when you’re greeted by name at the door to the moment just before you leave when Nakayama appears at your table to sincerely thank you for visiting.

Almost all of the restaurants selected for this list are highly representative of their locations, a way of tasting the true nature of a place through its dining. So why, in Los Angeles, choose a restaurant that looks to Japan for much of its inspiration?

Because L.A.’s greatest asset is its diversity and its cultivation of culture that blurs the lines of influence and origin and arrives at something wholly new. N/naka is not a restaurant that would exist anywhere else: a chef born in Southern California but trained in Japan, working in a format traditionally reserved for men, growing her own produce and paying homage to the incredible edible bounty that’s possible in this specific part of the world. n-naka.com

Even though they moved their reservation system to Tock and upped their pricing by $50, no reservations are open…

Hardly surprising. Hell, the last time I was at n/naka, at least half the dining room had flown in internationally, just to eat there (including my dining companions that night lol).


that’s insane but great news for LA

I’m been looking for months with no luck. I really wanted to take my friend there next month.

Is there anybody who cannot go anymore on December Friday night or Saturdays?

I’d very much appreciate your help.

Keep in mind that the kaiseki dinners have gone up from $225 to $275 now.