For December 30th and New Year’s Eve, n/naka is offering a special 13-Course New Year’s Kaiseki Dinner priced at $225 plus tax and gratuity.  It was another amazing meal that, as usual, was plated so beautifully.

SOKI ZUKE – Oak smoked onsen tamago, kabu puree, ikura, chives

ZENSAI (Seasonal Ingredients Presented as an Appetizer) – Blue shrimp, foie gras mousse, namasu, crab uni nikogori, kamaboko, ginko nuts, ponzu 

MODERN ZUKURI (Modern interpretation of sashimi) – Red snapper, konbu, orange curd, kishu, Mandarin ponzu (you squeeze the juice from the Mandarin orange in the lower right over the dish of ponzu sauce it sits on), plum puree.

OWAN – Ozouni with mochi, Japanese wild mushrooms (shitake, enoki, shimeji)

OTSUKURI (Traditional Sashimi) – Toro, buri, Santa Barbara spiny lobster, purple yam, daikon, wasabi

MUSHIMONO (Steamed Dish) – Black cod, purple yam, gobo

AGEMONO (Fried Dish) – Abalone (on a stick), shirako (cod sperm sack wrapped in shiso leaves), renkon (lotus root), 3 salts (Himalyan, matcha, Okinawa)

SHIIZAKANA (Not Bound by Tradition, The Chef’s Choice Dish) – Uni, Alba white truffle, house made pasta, kizami, nori

NIKU (Meat Dish) – Miyazaki A5 wagyu beef, gold egg and beets sauces, black garlic, black sea salt

SUNOMONO (Vinaigrette Dish) – Kumamoto oyster, creme fraiche, caviar, yuzu omoi sake

SHOJUKI (Rice Dish) – Chirashi (toro, tuna, yellowtail, shrimp, Hokkaido scallop, uni, tamago, ginger, unagi (eel), ikura (salmon roe), marinated sushi rice)

DESSERT (Mizumono) – Lemon pine sorbet, matcha tea
DESSERT – Palate cleanser (tea)

DESSERT – Green tea baked Alaska, red bean ice cream, yuzu curd, kuromame

PARTING GIFTS – Copy of tonight’s menu, and a box of housemade mochi)


 Me with Chef Niki Nakayama

n/naka storefront 


The Flavors of Tianjin and Sichuan at Cui Hua Lou in Monterey Park

When I first tried this restaurant about 3 years ago, their store front had Chinese signage with just the word “Szechuan” identifying what kind of cuisine this restaurant serves to English speakers.  However, the English name for this restaurant on their menus was “Cui Hua Lou.”  Yet, the Chinese name of the restaurant is pronounced, “Shí Shàng Kǎo Ba,” meaning Eat on the Bar. Odd.

Nevertheless, this place has been churning out delicious dishes with complex flavors that come together to create a flavor explosion in your mouth. Some of the dishes do seem to be Sichuan: Water Boiled Fish, Spicy Lamb Stew, Cold Spicy Mung Bean Jelly, Ma Po Tofu, Eggplant with Garlic Sauce, Kung Pao Chicken, to name a few. Yet, none of their dishes have too strong of a spicy kick to them, just enough to enhance the flavors of each dish. Perhaps that is drawn from the regional cooking where the owner and his family is from: Tianjin, a region/city located just southeast of Beijing, where they are known for their bold flavored foods, with an emphasis on seafood and lamb.

Let’s just say the combination of the two regions resulted in absolutely delicious food. So good, that one of my friends and I pretty much dine here at least once a month.

Stewed Lamb in Casserole with napa cabbage and mung bean vermicelli

Eggplant in Garlic Sauce
Water Boiled Fish Filet
Kung Pao Shrimp

Cumin Dusted Lamb Skewers (buy 10, get 1 free, as is with all their skewer offerings)

Chicken Wing Skewers

Chicken Hearts and Shitake Mushroom Skewers (mushrooms are brushed with a mildly sweet glaze)

Pan Fried Shredded Potato in Vinegar

Stir Fried Napa Cabbage with Dried Shrimp (odd that they would have this Cantonese dish on the menu)

Sliced Pork Belly in Garlic Sauce 

Cold Sour and Spicy Mung Bean Jelly Noodles

Tianjin Style Pancakes (think of them as Tianjin style English muffins)

Spicy Fish Hot Pot 

Scallions with Noodles, with ground pork

Lamb in Szechuan Sauce

Ma Po Tofu (dusted with grounded Sichuan peppercorns, this one is a knock out!)

Kung Pao Shrimp

Shredded Pork with Cilantro (simple, yet delicious)

Pan Fried Corn