Chef's Table at Inaka Seafood
Chef Niki Nakayama was formerly at Azami on Melrose. She is now exploring, experimenting, and doing her own thing for the Chef's Table. By day, Inaka offers prepared healthy Japanese food and is a seafood market. At night, it is transformed to Niki's chef's table, a multi-course dinner, $80pp, 10 people max, free corkage.
We were a group of 7, and had the place all to ourselves, it was closed to everyone else. We had Chef Niki all to ourselves. It was way awesome cool. Like having a private dinner with your friends at a secret restaurant, and having the chef all to yourself. Prior to the dinner, I communicated with Niki about the general foodie background of our group, and anything in particular any of us don't eat. When we arrived, Niki chatted with us, she is so friendly and down to earth. Our waiter was also very friendly and quite jovial.
Now, the food:
1. Lobster with avocado ravioli, the avocado was in some sort of clear little round sack (use of gelatin?), I don't know how she did that. Ok, my description is probably not very good, but the dish was.
2. A trio of kumamotos, each with a different sauce: orange saba, yuzu, ponzu.
3. Sashimi: Japanese snapper, toro, scallop from Japan.
4. My friends all had the kobe beef from Japan, and all got very quiet while the beef was blowing their minds. Since I don't eat beef, Niki made for me: Chilean seabass--it was perfectly seared, so fresh and beautiful. Both dishes came with truffled mashed potatoes.
5. Shitake mushroom stuffed with shrimp, in a dashi broth, with mitsuba.
6. Foie gras with unagi risotto.
7. Sushi: sweet shrimp, Japanese snapper, Scottish salmon, Spanish mackerel, kanpachi, uni.
8. Dessert: sake braised fig, green tea creme brulee, banana tempura, with vanilla bean sauce.
It was a wonderful, delicious, excellent dinner. In a couple of years, Niki will have her own place on Overland and Palms. I can't wait!
Inaka Seafood Gourmet
838 S. Baldwin Avenue
Arcadia, CA 91007
Finally discovered the Chef's Table here and loved practically every course. From the trio of kumamotos that was slurpably good, to the wonderful shrimp/scallop ravioli in a sublime uni butter, the three-hour-affair was amazing. Also a pleasant surprise that Niki recognized me from her Azami days!
Can't wait to return and hope Niki and Inaka continues doing well.
My Inaka blogpost w photos: http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com/2009...
Quick report back
Loved our experience here. The important notes
Space: Smaller than expected. A bit colder (both in ambience and temperature) than expected. There were 6 of us total that night.
Service: Good, but not perfect. Our server was very nice though.
Food: Ah, the important part. We counted 7 courses (with sashimi/sushi each being 1 course) + dessert. I found the portions to be very hatfields-esque; just the right size without being a glutton. We did not leave hungry.
From what I can remember...
1. Lobster Salad w/Brioche - Lovely fresh lobster salad. Not giant chucks of lobster ala Picasso, but tasty as all hell. The brioche was a real winner here, being crunchy enough to give the dish texture, but not oh so crunchy/thick where it was a chore to eat.
2. Trio of kumamotos - Smaller than usual, but my god they were tasty.
3. Sashimi round - Some type of salmon (almost like a pate), can't even describe it save to say that it was tasty. Kanpachi carpaccio. Bluefin toro + scallop. Winner on the plate was the bluefin for me. Nice oily-ness, but with a much firmer texture than I am used to for Toro.
4. Some type of traditional japanese dish - I've seen it before, I have no idea what it's called. It's like a bean curd, but with what I felt was a shrimp broth, with shaved black truffles.
5. Seared scallop with uni butter and foie gras ravioli - holy hell this dish was spectacular. Uni butter, seared scallop, and foie gras ravioli, what could go wrong?!?! The scallop was cooked perfectly and the natural sweetness complemented the richness of everything else on the plate
6. A-5 kobe with asparagus and some type of mashed carb (prob sweet potato?). Didn't like the dish as much as I thought I would. I mean it was REALLY REALLY tasty, don't get me wrong, but the kobe didn't have as much melt in your mouth goodness as I expected, and was served slightly cold
7. Sushi round - IIRC...salmon, amaebi, spanish mackeral, bluefin toro, scallop, kanpachi. The only thing I didn't like was the fried shrimp head - thought it was a bit greasy and the batter a slightly heavy
8. Green tea creme brulee w/chocolate cake + some type of ice cream. Brulee had a really nice carmelized top to it. Chocolate cake + ice cream, good, if unremarkable.
Total bill was 160+ tax, BYOB. Value wise I was very happy with everything. I really enjoyed her combination of mixing japanese and european cooking techniques, worked really, really well.
thanks for the report! would have liked to enjoy Inaka too, but we canceled it 2 wks ago. hiked most of the day in malibu and my gf didn't want to head all the way out to arcadia. We went stayed closer to home and went to Kiwami instead. It was great! I'll post a report w/ pix soon.
Thanks for the great report back. :) I agree with you that it seems odd that your "A-5 kobe" wasn't melt in your mouth... perhaps it wasn't real Grade A5 Kobe? (just wondering.) When I went, the "Kobe" they served us was originally announced as "Wagyu" by our server, but when I asked the server to double-check (and find out where it was from), he apologized and said it was "American Kobe."
thanks for the photos...they look great--but small. did you leave fulfilled and does the menu change? Since I can't afford Ursawa and ns1 called this the budget Ursawa, I went ahead and booked a reservation on 2/14/09. Also, how is the setting considering i'm going on valentines and this place doesn't seem to be a normal restaurant but a market during the day?
From my research, 10 person chefs table, menu changes daily, BYOB
Everything I've read so far has been nothing but positive; it's some type of seafood shop during the day and chef niki takes over at night.
Seems like 2 starters, sashimi course, 3 'mains', sushi course, then dessert course
I'll see you there ;)
One review says "BYOB - bring the good stuff; I suggest both white and red Burgundy, of course. Service was attentive and thoughtful. This is not a big meal - we were not stuffed afterwards, we probably could have eaten another course. But don't they say Americans eat too much?"
OH my god!!! Inaka is totally AWESOME. We were a group of 9 to celebrate my husband's birthday. It was the most most wonderful, delicious and unforgettable dining experience at Inaka.. The sashimi is soooo fresh... I love the Foie Gras and kobe beef! They are totally mind-blowing!!! My friend, who doesnt take beef had soft shell crabs with mayo/seasame dressing yuzu flavor. It is totally AMAZING too! (Yes, I couldnt help it and took a bite of her share) ... And SUSHI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...Uni, Salmon, Kanpachi(my FAV), Hamachi, Mackerel....etc...I remember I got really depressed for a while when Chef Niki wasn't at Azami anymore because I was totally addicted to her sushi....hahahah... All of us enjoyed the dinner thoroughly, especially my husband who couldnt stop complimenting how delicious and yummy the food is..... I definitely will make another reservation in Dec again...DEFINITELY DEFINITELY......!!!