Several months ago, I reviewed Niki Nakiyama’s tasting menu at Inaka and declared it the best tasting menu I had since Bastide. Sadly, Bastide is long gone but Niki is doing as splendid as ever. We finally made the long journey back to Arcadia and got to experience her amazing cuisine one more time. I don’t know what to say but WOW. I felt like a judge on Iron Chef. As a special touch, she remembered I am a big fan of uni and made us a special dish shown below. Really amazing. I would prefer this cuisine over Providence, Sona, Ortolan, Bazaar…need I go on?
Yes, it is in a strip mall and has no ambiance to speak of. Get over it!!
Rumor has it she finally obtained a restaurant space and will be opening sometime in 2011 on the West Side. Keep an eye out. But for now, go while you can!!
Chefs Table at INAKA Seafood Gourmet 8-01-09
Lobster Cakes, Sesame Tomato Tofu, Corn Pudding, Mixed Greens with Cherry Tomato. – It was reminiscent of a crab cake, but only in the way a $5 Carl’s burger is similar to a ribeye off the grill. Exceptional light and crispy coating around pure lobster meat with such a delicate flavor and texture it was almost airy.
Diced Kanpachi, Shishito Pepper Oil, Avocado, Yuzu Sorbet. Look at the way the avocado glistens. And the Yuzu sorbet had the texture of something processed in liquid nitrogen. (Maybe it was?) The way we ate this was we assembled a bit of the fresh and vibrant kampachi along with a bit of avocado and some of the sorbet as one bite. The mouthfeel of the combined salty, spicy, creamy, cold, acid flavors and textures was truly amazing.
Sashimi Platter, Abalone, Seared Toro, Uni (Sea Urchin), Bonito. – As before, the quality rivals that of the best sushi bars in LA. Also notable here is her homemade soy sauce which was blended with a very high quality dashi. It accented the fish perfectly.
Steamed Uni with Meringue Lotus Root – OMG OMG OMG. She made this dish just for me as Niki knows how much I love uni. This was a true Iron Chef dish. I have no clue on the technique she used, but the best way to describe the custard filling in the uni shell would be to compare it to Chawan Mushi. I believe some chemical or molecular gastronomy techniques were utilized here as well to create the smoothly, custardy filling. Then the uni was perfectly steamed (Not briny, like cooked uni sometimes gets) and was bathing in a rich dashi broth. The entire effect was completely sublime and one of most amazing taste sensations I have ever experienced.
Foie Gras, Ginger Eggplant, (Ayu) Sweet Fish, in a Ginger Broth. Another great dish. The foie gras proved to be an excellent foil to fish. Again, another harmony of flavor, texture, and mouthfeel.
American Rib Eye Souvie, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans – I am assuming she meant Sous Vide here. I love this style of cooking as to me it really adds a depth of flavor and buttery texture to proteins. This was my least favorite dish as I am not a big fan of either rib eye or green beans. But I appreciate the progressive nature of this dinner and she needed something big and bold to finish the hot dishes.
Sushi Platter, Toro, Aji (Spanish mackerel, Tai (Japanese Snapper, Kanpachi, Hotate (Japanese Scallops) Seared Kobe Beef. (Same platter taken from two angles.) Again, super high quality fish all perfectly prepared. Interesting note – she had already put the proper amount of soy) sauce on each fish prior to serving. I wonder if she saw one too many people use her sushi as a soy sauce sponge to prompt this unusual serving method. One of the most notable sushi pieces off this plate was actually not the fish but the Kobe (right bottom picture). I usually do not care for kobe sushi, but the way she seared the beef was so perfect that once again it was a fantastic taste and texture experience.
This was a simple add-on dish of soba and some tempura veggies (not pictured) on the side. THe noodles were perfectly cooked and we had to drink the broth.
Kabocha Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce, Green Tea Cheesecake with Red Bean Cream, White Peach Compote with Vanilla Ice Cream, and Fresh Fruit. Even her pastry was delightful. Not too sweet, bright flavors.
All I can say is that I wish her restaurant was closer. If you are a foodie and you have not yet had her tasting menu, do not pass go. Take your partner and spend $200 and go to Inaka. Tasting menus will never be the same after that.