Los Angeles-born Chef Niki Nakayama is a proud pioneer in the modern kaiseki tradition, yet she’s humble enough to remain a constant in her dining room, checking in on each guest to ensure their every comfort. In this way, the much-lauded restaurant feels utterly personal, as though for this moment in time, you are the only diner that matters.
Set in an attractive and neutral-toned dining room, the space holds a devoted, almost cult-like reverence. It makes sense: guests don’t want to miss a morsel of Chef Nakayama’s genius. Her clever creations are delightfully unbound by Japanese tradition; instead, she rather inventively works within the spirit of it.
A nightly tasting menu might begin with a small glass of apple sake, followed by pristine scallop tartare coupled with sanbaizu gelée, carrot purée, toasted sunflower seeds and crispy carrot chips. From there, tiny yet exquisite dishes pour forth, including simply grilled branzino paired with rich Santa Barbara sea urchin, shiitake mushrooms and ponzu; or a tender lobster dumpling with king crab bobbing in dashi. Al dente spaghettini with abalone slices, pickled cod roe and black truffle is a personification of the chef's unique style.