99 Essential Restaurants 2014

n/naka

photo by Anne Fishbein

Niki Nakayama’s restaurant in Palms is a testament to one woman’s quiet quest: to bring the quiet, seasonal beauty of formal kaiseki dining to L.A. Many other restaurants play with the concept, but only n/naka is dedicated to following the formality of the art form and presenting it in such a respectful manner. Nakayama has recently given up the nine-course option, meaning you have to give yourself over to the whole $165 13-course tasting experience, but that’s not such a bad thing. Not when you’re presented with gorgeous plates of gleaming raw fish, each given a thoughtful garnish or accompaniment, or more creative dishes such as grilled blue shrimp coated with yuzu cream. The meal’s centerpiece is usually the part of the meal where Nakayama veers a little from tradition and shows her creativity: say, spaghettini with black abalone, pickled cod roe and truffles. At once comforting and exciting, it was one of the best things we ate all year. The quiet room and thoughtful service make this one of L.A.’s most exceptional dining experiences.

-- Besha Rodell