From Our Editors
Niki Nakayama was born and bred in LA, but the three years she spent in Japan are what defined her as a chef. That period of traveling and tasting included a stint at a Japanese inn owned by her relatives, where Niki learned the art of kaseiki. A Japanese tradition, kaseiki involves riding the changing waves of Mother Nature’s bounty by using whatever ingredients are in season and preparing them in their most natural states. With her newfound knowledge, Niki returned to her hometown and opened n/naka. In service of kaseiki principles, most of the seasonal produce Niki uses comes straight from the restaurant’s own organic garden. She sculpts the colorful veggies into masterpieces that look as good as they taste—three slices of live scallop overlap intricately in their own lily-white shell, salmon-pink Tasmanian sea trout bears a moss-like crust of kombu and chives, and assorted sashimi sprout garden-like with sprigs of lettuce and slices of lemon. Her customers always have a chance to sample the menu’s full range—Niki serves seafood-centric dishes across 9, 10, or 13 courses rather than offering them a la carte. Matched with the proper wine or sake, the multicourse meals form a symphony of delicate flavors.