Niki Nakayama was born and raised in LA. She began her career at the renowned restaurant Takao in Brentwood, before embarking on a three-year working tour across Japan, sampling her way through different regional flavours and immersing herself in Japanese cuisine both traditional and cutting-edge. She trained under chef Masa Sato in the art of kaiseki the traditional Japanese culinary practice that emphasises the balance and seasonality of a dish.
Returning to LA, Niki opened her first restaurant – Azami Sushi Cafe – which earned plaudits from Zagat and the LA Times along with earning Citysearch’s ‘Best of Sushi’ distinction in 2006.
Inaka, Niki’s ambitious second venture, served as a gourmet Japanese take-out by day and an intimate eight-course chef’s table by night. Focusing on tasting menus creating ‘a thoughtful and cohesive series of dishes that provides a personal experience for each diner.’
Inaka has been 10 years in the making and sees Niki applying the artistic and technical notions of kaiseki to create an ever-evolving seasonal narrative within each meal, applying the kaiseki philosophy that the whole of the meal is as important as the sum of its parts. This traditional culinary art form reflects the ever-changing rhythms of the earth by taking the freshest seasonal ingredients and presenting them in their most natural states. Using the very best ingredients supplied from their own organic garden, Niki believes the food she serves should engage your attention and be about enjoying the moment, the current offerings of the season, and ultimately, the food in front of you.
Niki Nakayama is one of the most innovative chefs cooking today and one of only a handful of female Japanese chefs.
Niki Nakayama’s Wine Choice
I’m a bit proud of this sake, as over lunch a few years ago I convinced brewer Iwao Niizawa to sell his sake in the UK. This is one for lovers of Sauvignon Blanc and New World Chardonnay with fruitiness and aromatic lift. Don’t match with Sashimi. Think of herb-dotted salads and grilled vegetable and fish. Match the elegant texture as much as the aromas and flavours.
Niki Nakayama’s Meal: Abalone Pasta
Niki’s dish from N/Naka is a signature dish and so she was unable to share the recipe for her incredible meal. However, you can find more information about the restaurant and the dishes that Niki prepares at the N/Naka website: Click here