Dinner at n/naka

An inconspicuous grey building occupies the corner of Lawler and Overland in West LA. No name adorns the front—only a simple “3455.”

I opened the door, and the mystery continued. No hostess stand or obvious place to go greeted us. Rather, we entered a tiny nook, which opened into an intimate dining area.

Noticing our arrival, a hostess walked over and checked us in. She then led us to a table for two in a small enclave in the back of the dining room.  As I looked around, I felt at peace. The dining area is serene—using soft, peaceful colors, and elegant, simple décor.

We sat down knowing what we were going to have: the Modern Kaiseki[i] for both of us, plus the sake pairing[ii] for my husband and the wine pairing[iii] for me. (Given we had made this reservation months in advance, my husband and I had quite some time to anticipate this meal.)

In due time a sommelier arrived with our first drink of the night: champagne for us both. It was delicious and the perfect start to the meal. The pour was generous, too, which we surely appreciated.

Our meal began with a single scallop. Perhaps the least exciting dish of the night, this scallop was still lovely, and a wonderful beginning to our thirteen-courses.

nnaka scallop

Next, the sake and wine began in earnest. Course by course, new glasses arrived at our table, complete with detailed descriptions of the drinks to come. I generally only drink reds; however, I fell in love with the first white the waiter placed before me. I do not purport to be a wine connoisseur, (simply a dedicated consumer), but to me the choices were excellent. Our sommelier also surprised me more than once with sake for me (instead of wine). I gave each of the three sakes a shot, and acknowledge they were pretty pleasant beverages.

nnaka sake glasses

And so we went, for thirteen courses, enjoying each moment of the ride. The appetizer course including blue crab and shrimp following the scallop, and was delicious. We then enjoyed  an array of sushi—including fantastic sashimi (we loved the toro), and even a delightful handroll. We melted with each bite of our wagyu, and were pleasantly surprised by the dessert—reminiscent of a take on deconstructed strawberry shortcake we had once enjoyed years back.

At one point our waitress asked if were there for a special occasion. No, I replied, just being us. She asked how long we had been together, and was shocked to hear eight or nine years. She said we looked as though we had been together for only a few months (because we were so happy).

I laughed, but immediately realized—this is just another reason why people should go to n/naka. The food is quality—and perfectly prepared, sure. However, a long, well-paced, and exquisitely beautiful meal, which you cannot eat in under three hours, also forces you to sit face-to-face with your partner for those three hours, absolutely present. In our hyperactive world, such moments are too few and far between.


[i] Thirteen Courses, $185 pp.

[ii] $105 pp.

[iii] $95 pp.