Niki Nakayama Is Opening a New Bento-Focused Restaurant [Food & Wine]

n/soto will be located near Lafayette Square, in Midcity. My man Andy Wang, breaking it down…

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If you want to bid for a good cause

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Set of two takeout bentos from n/soto, Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama’s new Los Angeles restaurant, n/soto. Photos by Alicia Cho

Dishes include:

UPPER LAYER

Beef Sukiyaki & Hanjuku Tamago - inspired by Kawafuku Cafe, Little Tokyo, 1923

Lobster Miso Dynamite

Salmon Teriyaki

Smoked Chicken Yakitori

Kara-Age Fried Chicken Wing

Shrimp Foo Yung - inspired by Kei Hanakawa, East West Flavors, 1965

Eggplant “Nasu Ni” - inspired by Natsuye Fujimoto, Recipes, 1930

Grilled Corn

BOTTOM LAYER

Shrimp and Avocado Inari Sushi

Spam Musubi

Tuna Macaroni Salad

Saba Oshizushi, Gari, Shiso (please enjoy with provided soy sauce)

Pickled Cauliflower & Tokyo Turnip

Daikon & Carrot Salad, Ume Ponzu Dressing

Cucumber & Dashi Marinated Ikura

Green Bean Gomae

SOUP

Tamago Toji Miso

DESSERT

Coconut Cake - inspired by Elaine Yagawa’s Sungold Cake Recipe, East-West Flavors, 1965

Strawberries, Champagne & Cream Jelly

Cornflake Crunch Cookie

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Whaa?! My ‘hood!

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YES! Washington and Vineyard! YAY! That stretch has such great potential! I am there often to visit La Libreria which is a delightful place to buy books. :slight_smile:

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Coincides with the debut of Chef Niki Nakayama and Chef Carol Iida’s MasterClass today - They are on a ROLL!

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Sweet!

That corner is super close @Dommy

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The debut of n/soto upholds the tradition of excellence we’ve come to expect from Chef Niki and Chef Carole. This Ekiben Nikkei “A Taste of Home”, in collaboration with the Japanese American National Museum and Little Tokyo Community Council brings a slice of history to life.

The new storefront: Look for the ivy-covered facade…

The goods…

Terrific bites allows us to enjoy some traditional (and carefully researched) Japanese-American recipes!

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n/soto’s debut bento is on par with what n/naka has been churning out since they started their bento operation. With demand for the n/naka bento being what it is and the consistent quality the team is able to execute on, it’s easy to see why they’d spin up a new operation.

Got the bag.

Spread offense.

Upper Layer
Beef Sukiyaki & Hanjuku Tamago
Lobster Dynamite
Smoked Salmon Teriyaki
Chicken Teriyaki
Fried Chicken Wing
Shrimp Foo Yung
Eggplant Nasu Ni

Bottom Layer
Shrimp and Avocado Inari Sushi
Spam Musubi
Tuna Macaroni Salad
Saba Oshizushi
Pickled Cauliflower & Tokyo Turnip
Daikon & Carrot Salad with Ume Ponzu Dressing
Dashi Marinated Ikura in Cucumber Cup
Green Bean Gomae

Best bite awards go to…
Fried Chicken Wing, Inari Sushi, and Saba :drooling_face:

Looking forward to seeing what the team comes up with next!

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Really enjoyed this as well. innovative collaboration with Japanese American museum and little Tokyo community council which apparently gave them a grant for this, love reading this brochure that came with the dinner

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The brochure was really special–it was great learning about the connection the food had with the community. I really hope that’s something they can continue including for future bentos. It brought to mind the notes that came along with the Vespertine menus, except way better with 1000x more heart.

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Totally agree—another restaurant that does this is Ayara Thai with their Thursday pinto set meals. Not quite to this level of printing and photos but just as much heart.

As was saying to my spouse the idea of learning another culture through eating it’s food is misleading at best. Simply eating it isn’t enough and you have to put in the work to understand it and this brochure made it possible.

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I thought this was just okay. nothing really wowed me and unfortunately the only thing that stood out was the shockingly refrigerator-cold rice with the saba oshizushi.

also all the individual plastic trays, cupcake wrappers, and jello shot cups that were used reminded me more of eating samples at a food festival than of a bento box.

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Did you find it better or worse than the ones out of n/naka?

I thought they were pretty much the same quality (and focus on on small bites) but with an emphasis on different kinds of bites to include.

I did admittedly throw a couple things in my counter top oven to bring the hot items to proper temperature.

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i agree with you it was pretty much on par with n/naka quality wise. usually with n/naka i would find at least one standout bite or dish, but that wasn’t the case with n/soto. maybe it was the price point or just the theme that didn’t do it for me this time.

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We liked it, but it did feel a bit less “special” than a full n/naka jubako. It was like a very high quality makunouchi bento — more comfort food than haute cuisine.

I will say that I really liked the avocado inari. Super bold flavors that went remarkably well together.

Lowlight was the spam musubi. I just can’t do spam.

For $50 all in, I’d get it again. At the current price point, I think I’d rather pay the extra to go full n/naka.

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More than anything else, the n/soto Ekiben Nikkei was meant to be more of a historical nod to comfort and culturally important dishes within the Japanese-American community.

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I think I’m going with @Piglet on this one. It didn’t blow my socks off and the price is a little high at $65 (paying for the name?) But we enjoyed it. There was kind of a jumble of things, but we enjoyed trying the different bites. I agree with @PorkyBelly about the rice and found the Saba in the Oshizushi a bit too mushy. Like Piglet the Shrimp Avocado Inari was also my favorite bite, along with the Almond Coconut Cake. :hearts: The Strawberry, Champagne & Cream Jelly reminded me of Jell-O 1-2-3. But the only thing I flat out disliked was the Tamago Toji Miso.

I’m not an expert but I think they are purposefully going for less refined, comforting, old school Japanese-American with even a little Chinese-American influence thrown in. I like the effort, the brochure, research of the dishes, the collaboration w/historical societies like the JANM & the Little Tokyo Community Council, and that they chose to open in a neighborhood with a rich mix of Angelenos & L.A. history. Love a little contextual history with my meal. :hearts:

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