n/naka — Los Angeles (12/2016)


Chef Niki Nakayama and n/naka were the subject of the 3rd episode of the first season of Netflix’s Chef’s Table documentaries. They take reservations up to three months in advance according to current policy.  When I had made reservations, I thought it was a rolling 6-week advance with release on a Sunday.  In any event, I managed to secure a reservation for a Friday evening for two.  I was accompanied by a friend who lives in L.A.  The restaurant itself is located in a somewhat inconspicuous part of the city, in between Westwood and Culver City.

They offer two tasting menus:  regular and vegetarian.  We both went with the regular menu. And, unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring my macro lens, so the photos are not as good as I wanted them to be.

For beverages, there was an ample selection of sake by the glass, and a nice selection of wines by the glass, appropriately with more whites than reds on the list.  I went with the Riesling.

The first presentation was mussel surrounded by mussel foam.  This was served with potato purée, a touch of shiso oil, crispy onions, crême fraiche, and white sturgeon caviar.  Finally, there was a garnish of nasturtium leaf and a viola petal.

The next presentation was quite elaborate.  There was snow crab, truffles, maitake mushroom tempura, fresh octopus curry, sea salted halibut with a little spice, and a pickled crab apple to finish up with at the end.

This course featured seared kampachi in a modern form of sashimi.  It was braised with fermented garlic oil and garnished with vegetables from the chef’s garden.  There were dots of red pepper gelée on the right and strokes of nori and beets purées.  Finally, there was a bit of ponzu to use for dipping as well.

For the full write-up, click here.

ink — Los Angeles (2/2014)


A search for molecular cuisine brought up ink.  The chef is Michael Voltaggio.  The menu is a list of small plates and the preparatory techniques are modern.  My reservation was for a Friday night.  It’s located on Melrose Ave. just a few blocks east of La Cienega Blvd., very close to West Hollywood.  The restaurant is large, with tables, booths, a counter and a bar.  The atmosphere is modern, hip, with a loud buzz of music and crowd noise, although it was not difficult to converse.           

The wine by the glass list offered a nice enough variety.  I spotted a rarity on it as they offered a sparkling Riesling as a choice. I went with that, as I thought it might be the optimal combination – kind of like champagne, but a Riesling, which has been my choice of late.  It ended up being just okay.

The server described the menu as lighter fare towards the top and heavier as one works down the list.  The suggestion is to have 2-3 selections per person.  I guess because everything is considered more like a small plate or something to share, there was no tasting menu.  This made it difficult for me to decide, as I wasn’t really sure how much food I would be getting. Yet, I wanted the opportunity to sample as many dishes as I could.

For the full write-up, click here.

Dinner Lab Event — Los Angeles (11/2013)


A few months ago, a friend sent me a link to an announcement that a dinner membership program called Dinner Lab was offering memberships in San Francisco and if I was already a member.  I had not heard of it before, so I checked out the website for more information.  It’s an outfit that is setting up in different cities where people can join and then be eligible to sign up for pop-up dinner events.  The annual membership fee seem reasonable, at least to try it out for one year.  And the cost of the meals, which included tax, gratuity and alcoholic beverages, seemed fair enough.  They also say that if you join, you can attend events in your home city or in any other city.  Moreover, the counter on the membership doesn’t start until you attend your first local event. After a couple of weeks, I decided to go ahead and join (the initial batch of memberships have since been all sold). 

I had forgotten that they post new events on Wednesdays.  I just happen to look early one Wednesday and an event was going to go on sale later that day that had a menu that looked interesting.  I asked a friend who lives in LA if he had any interest, and he agreed.  So when the time came to buy tickets (you can buy one or two), I was able to get tickets to my choice of seating (I chose the 2nd seating at 7:30).  The event sold out within an hour.

For the full write-up, click here.