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Why We Love Niki Nakayama

n/naka has been described as “a passion project applying the artistic and technical notions of kaiseki to create an ever-evolving seasonal narrative within each meal.” Opened in 2011 by Los Angeles native Niki Nakayama, the restaurant has enjoyed critical acclaim. Niki was both a 2014 James Beard Foundation Award finalist and the only woman chef featured in Netfix’s episodic masterpiece “Chef’s Table”, which showcases the lives and kitchens of 6 international chefs. As Niki says in a voice-over in Netflix’s trailer for the program, “When I’m plating a dish there is a song going on in my head. I don’t know how to get rid of it.” 

Niki Nakyama is one of the only female sushi chefs in LA and one of the few in the world specializing in kaiseki, a 13th century Buddhist-inspired form of Japanese cuisine served in a series of flights of the freshest seasonal ingredients presented in their most natural states. 

Nakayama’s current menu includes 13-course tastings such as Modern Kaiseki and a Vegetarian Tasting. The vegetables are grown with care in the restaurant’s own organic garden, built and maintained by Farmscape Gardens.

Prior to opening n/naka, Niki did a tour of restaurants in Japan and then returned to LA to open her first restaurant, Azami Sushi Cafe, where her omakase menu made it a must-visit. Azami was widely considered one of the best sushi restaurants in Southern California. Her second venture, Inaka, was a gourmet Japanese take-out by day and 8-course chef’s table by night. 

n/naka was considered the best kept secret in LA when it opened in 2011 and, as a quiet, elegant experience, it was a “destination for food nerds.” No longer a secret, Chef Niki Nakayama is getting the attention she deserves. Visit soon and often, especially since the restaurant keeps track of every course it has ever served you, you will never be served the same meal twice.

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