The last time I ate at n/naka was for my birthday month (that’s right – I celebrate my ENTIRE birthday month, not just one day) back in October, so I was pretty damn stoked to go again! And I will be totally unapologetic about failing to hide my enthusiasm, because I love me some good food.
I’m not sure if it’s because Chef Niki Nakayama was featured on Chef’s Table on Netflex, but it definitely was not an easy feat to make reservations this time around. I think I had to make reservations at least a month or two in advance! In this day and age, trying to get a group of five to commit on a date and time, especially to a four hour dinner, was definitely not an easy endeavor.
Towards the end of the meal, our group was getting pretty restless after having been seated for over three hours. One of the guys in our group joked that this dining experience must stay a secret at all cost, especially to their wives. None of the men in our group have ever taken their significant other to dinner that was this long. It’s okay – your secret is safe with me.
I was excited to try a few new dishes as the menu changes seasonally. If you’ve dined at n/naka before, Chef Niki will make sure that you are not served the exact same menu twice, making each dining experience unique. Of course, certain staple dishes remain on the menu such as the Matsuzaka Wagyu beef A5. We opted for the Modern Kaiseki, which was a 13 course meal. Initially, I wanted to try the Premium Kaiseki, however, our whole table would have to order it as well and we could not have any dietary restrictions.
1. SCALLOP, IKURA, PEA PUREE – Scallop was cooked to perfection; however, the poor guy tasted like he had been left out in the cold and alone for some time. Too bad there wasn’t a second scallop so that they could be two peas in a pod instead of one lonely scallop swimming alone in a pool of pea puree (Ha! I crack myself up). I’m not a fan of salmon roe or peas, so this dish wasn’t too memorable for me. On the other hand, the scallop was light, delicate and sliced like butta (butter).
2. BLACK COD MARINATED MISO, SHRIMP, TEMPURA, SASHIMI – The appetizer plating was a beautiful composition. The miso cod was my favorite; simple yet delightful. The shrimp and tempura were cooked perfectly. Overall, this dish had an array of different flavors and colors which were pleasing to both my palate and eyes.
3. O-TORO, KAMPACHI, KINMEDAI, SHIGOKU OYSTER, NAMA TAKO – I love oysters, especially raw oysters. I can slurp down these shucked mutants errday. Fun fact – oysters are considered to be an aphrodisiac and are rich of amino acids which increase certain hormones… The quality of the sashimi platter was good as it should be expected. It tasted like how good quality sashimi should taste like so there wasn’t much of a wow factor to it.
4. FRIED SEABASS WITH GREEN ONION PONZU GLAZE, GINKO NUT, GRILLED JAPANESE EGGPLANT – Yum. For a spilt second I almost convinced myself to regurgitate the remains out and eat it again so I could enjoy it a second time around (and even in its disembogue form it probably would still be delicious). That’s how good it was. And now all that’s left for me is to admire its picture in fondness.
5. HAIRY CRAB, SHITAKE, MITSUBA, DASHI – The crabmeat in a broth with shitake mushrooms, black truffle, and topped with a freaking egg. If you add an egg into anything it already gets a +100 for deliciousness. The dish was unique; it had earthy tones from the mushrooms and black truffle which was accompanied by the sweetness of the crabmeat. I enjoyed this dish. Though the flavors may not be for everyone, especially for those that may be overwhelmed by the crab’s fishy scent.
6. SPAGHETTINI WITH ABALONE, PICKLED COD ROE, BRUGANDY TRUFFLES, DAIKON RADISH – Prepared al dente, the pasta was an explosion of creaminess delight in my mouth. Perfectly executed, this was one of Chef Niki’s signature dishes.
7. JAPAN MATSUZAKA A5 WAGYU BEEF – Frankly this was my favorite dish of the night and probably the best piece of steak I have ever ate! I’m not sure why, but every time I eat wagyu beef, I imagine cows frolicking in the fields, getting massages, drinking sake and living the good life. Perhaps this is why, after death it’s so tasty and tender. I was left wistfully dreaming of a larger morsel of this drool-worthy luscious delight. I had tries of happiness (figuratively), similar to this expression of Chrissy Teigen. So good. Period.
8. HOTARU IKA, JAPANESE CUCUMBER, YUZU MISO – I’m not sure if this dish was supposed to be a palate cleanser, but it was a complete miss for me. I kept thinking to myself – just what on earth am I eating? I, unfortunately, did not enjoy this dish. 🙁 Squid you will not be missed.
9. RED SNAPPER AND TORO – Whenever I get sushi, I always order red snapper and toro. These two pieces of nigiri did not disappoint. The red snapper was subtle yet pleasant whereas the toro was intoxicating as it melted away in my mouth, where it belonged.
10. SQUID WITH YUZU KOSHO AND UNI – I’m typically not a fan of squid, but the garnishment of yuzu kosho was a pleasant mixture of citrusy zest with a hint of jalapeno, which made the nigiri quite delectable. I have a penchant for uni as the taste reminds me of the ocean, yet it has a rich milky texture the melts in your mouth.
11. SPANISH MACKEREL AND AMAEBI – And finally our last of the rich dish. The shrimp was sweet and so tasty, while the Spanish mackerel was fresh.
12. MELON SORBET, ROSE ALMOND MILK GRANITA – The first dessert was light and icy. I enjoyed the taste of the rose, however, this dessert was a bit underwhelming. I was a tad disappointed and was not impressed overall.
13. POPCORN ICE CREAM, MALTED MERINGUE, LEMON DROP, CARAMEL ANISE, CHOCOLATE RAISIN – It tastes like popcorn! I don’t normally like desserts as they tend to be overly too sweet. However, this was the perfect combination of sweetness and sourness. It was simply luscious.
There may have been one or two dishes I did not capture; I ate them before I remembered to take a picture. Regardless, each plate was aesthetically pleasing and more or so well executed. Overall – I enjoyed my experience at n/naka. However, I was slightly disappointed as it was not as good as the last time I went. We left n/naka pretty happy, full, and impressed with Chef Niki’s craftsmanship.