After her 2015 debut in Netflix's hit series Chef's Table, southern California native Niki Nakayama blossomed from local legend to internationally renowned culinary force. Niki's restaurant n/naka is dedicated to kaiseki, the traditional Japanese multi-course meal. Eating at n/naka is no casual undertaking—dinner will cost you a minimum of $185 per head and reservations are harder to come by than authentic Yeezys—but where else does the chef keep files on each customer to ensure a unique experience everytime he dines with her?
Chef Niki Nakayama
Del Mar Coast Black Cod. Images by Zen Sekizawa
In the early 2000s, Niki spent three years touring Japan, sampling her way through different regions to become a modern master of kaiseki. Upon returning to LA, she opened her first restaurant, Azami Sushi Cafe on Melrose, which has since closed, but was known for its all-female staff and fresh fish.
In spring of 2011, she opened n/naka in Palms where she uses the best ingredients available locally to create the ultimate modern kaiseki experience. A well-known Niki creation, shiizakana, features spaghettini with abalone, pickled cod and burgundy truffles. As we turn from summer to fall, Niki is looking forward to using "all kinds of mushrooms."
Below, we chat with chef about her favorite Japanese eats in LA:
NN: Shinsengumi Yakitori is always a great place to meet friends and eat too much.
NN: Nanbankan is a great place to eat yakitori.
NN: Asianya, formerly known as Ramen-YA, is great for ramen because they have additional soup bases besides tonkotsu.
NN: Chef Takao Izumida is one of my favorite chefs and I have an infinite amount of respect for him.
n/naka courtesy of Zen Sekizawa
Header image by Zen Sekizawa