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N/Naka or Shunji?

Coming to town this weekend and have one free night. Read a lot of favorable reviews for both. Thanks

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  1. Have you looked at the menu on n/naka's site (http://www.n-naka.com/menus/) or what was served from the more recent write-ups, and compared it to the recent write-ups on Shunji?

    I haven't been to n/naka, and everyone knows I'm a fan of Shunji, but I would say if you want more flexibility in what's being served and more ability to customize your meal, go with Shunji.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PeterCC

      I too have yet to try n/naka but enjoy Shunji. Agree on the flexibility but like many omakase meals, Shunji's omakase is pretty flexible. Figure starting at around $110-130, fill him in on your approx $ target, likes/dislikes and let it fly. Shunji will most likely include customer favorites but one should review the menu board to see what's offered - it's extensive but filled with interesting dishes and superb seafood.

      Nice sake list with some unique bottles but "Ichigo" is Shunji's creation. I thought it was perfectly suitable for Shunji's masterwork and a fair deal at $80 a bottle.

    2. That is a tough one. Honestly can't go wrong with either.

      If you like more traditional and more sushi, I'd say Shunji

      If you like more cooked items with a more western style ambiance and wine service, n/naka.

        1. n/naka

          Esp. if you have Urasawa envy, and it's one the few (only?) places in LA that kinda, sorta makes Urasawa seem irrelevant.

          33 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            I agree with n/naka. It's more than just sushi. The service is spectacular as is the food and the whole experience. I can't wait to go back.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              but no sushi bar, right ?

              or is there a sushi bar there now ?

              if so, i may have to make a trip there. now.

              1. re: kevin

                No sushi bar. It's not a "sushi restaurant" per se. But the sushi they serve is very good.

                1. re: foodiemahoodie

                  i thought they might have added one in the past year or so.

                  i really wish they did have that sushi bar component, somehow it detracts from the experience for me.

                  thanks for the update.

                  1. re: kevin

                    There's a kind of counter, but it's not for dining. I think it's for waiting customers (or that's what I was told - but it's in the large back room adjacent to the kitchen. Seems like an odd place to put waiting customers.).

              2. re: ipsedixit

                For me, Mori made Urasawa's sushi irrelevant.

                Shunji made Urasawa's kaiseki irrelevant.

                1. re: Porthos

                  But the beauty of n/naka is that it can sorta, kinda make both aspects of Urasawa irrelevant, if not passé.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    It's so different I put it in its own category with the kaiseki in a western sit down setting format. So I do agree with you. There really isn't anything like it.

                    Mori and Shunji are more direct comparisons and therefore more impressive in their irrelevance rendering.

                    1. re: Porthos

                      I don't disagree.

                      But this is really why n/naka would be the choice (at least for me). It is this sort of unique niche in the culinary landscape that is perhaps only rivaled by a place like Urasawa (and maybe Yamakase, which I have yet to try).

                      Shunji, while awesome in its own right, has peers in terms of style and food.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        As good as that truffle abalone pasta is at n/naka, I find myself picking Shunji over n/naka 6-7:1

                        I'm a sucker for his seasonal, always changing, tailored to the individual customer cuisine.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          That was a point I was going to bring up. I'm wondering how often the OP comes to LA and how often they might return to either restaurant. A first visit to Shunji may be more by the book but you gotta start somewhere, so if return visits are likely, I may lean toward Shunji too.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            If you go to n/naka enough they will recognize your name and vary the menu. It is a seasonal menu - whether you get the testing menu, or the grand one.

                            And if you don't want that pasta - you don't have to. But I'd be awfully disappointed.

                            Funny, I was talking to a chef yesterday (one of L.A.'s most revered) who had taken off an item because someone on Chowhound complained that they saw it on the menu a year or two ago. I'd read that post and I told him that this particular idiot Chowhounder HAD NEVER BEEN TO HIS RESTAURANT. (when responding to Jonathon Gold's list of which restaurants you've been to - his restaurant was not on the list). Complaining and judging a restaurant (that is highly regarded) which you've never been to - IMO is the height of dickiness.

                            1. re: foodiemahoodie

                              And if you don't want that pasta - you don't have to. But I'd be awfully disappointed.
                              ================
                              You may have misunderstood me. That pasta dish IS the reason to go for me. Amazing. Everything else is good but without that pasta dish, I would probably never go back.

                              I don't know why the chef would remove that dish based on 1 hound's complaint. Especially if everyone else liked it. I doubt any hound carries that much weight.

                              I for one think you should name the hound and chef. Perhaps the hound just forgot to list it.

                              I'm all about accountability in posting. Though I agree complaining and judging a restaurant that someone has never been to is bad, you could argue it is almost equally bad a bunch of amateurs are judging professional chefs at all.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                "...you could argue it is almost equally bad a bunch of amateurs are judging professional chefs at all."

                                Unless of course the "amateur" eaters (who keep the professional chefs employed) like to read what a "jury of their peers" thought of the food, rather than what some egomaniacal, auto-inflated, self-styled expert had to say about it in mind numbing "authentic" detail...In that case the "amateurs" would probably enjoy what their brethren had to say.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Unless of course the "amateur" eaters (who keep the professional chefs employed) like to read what a "jury of their peers" thought of the food,
                                  ======================
                                  I don't disagree with you and that's why this very site exists.

                                  But if only the individual taste and experience matters and things like authenticity does not, then why would the opinions of peers matter, if all that matters is personal taste?

                                  And I don't know if 1 visit by 1 hound is what keeps the professional chef employed. Hounds make up such a small part of a restaurant's business (except maybe Shunji).

                                  1. re: Porthos

                                    Authenticity matters to some and not at all to others. Personal taste, even if grading on some sort of "authenticity" scale, still counts for the lions share of what folks think of the food (or the service or the decor or the noise (g) or what-have-you).

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      Except maybe Shunji. :)

                                      Porthos, Pete, Cia Bob, and JL (in particular order) have single handedly kept the joint afloat.

                                      And I'm quite happy that they did.

                                      1. re: kevin

                                        Your list is in reverse order since I think Ciao Bob may be there 1-2x/week.

                                        1. re: Porthos

                                          oh, shit.

                                          i mean in no particular order.

                                          that's why i wanted to state it that way so no one is left out.

                                          anyhow, the rest of us are just mere mortals.

                                          once or twice a week sounds splendid, that is if i wasn't living off of food stampts.

                                        2. re: kevin

                                          Don't forget chrishei. :-)

                                          Actually, I'm pretty sure Bob and JL on their own keeps the place afloat. No offense to Porthos, chrishei, or myself, but after sussing out the approximate frequence of Bob's and JL's visits on another Shunji thread, I don't think any of us approaches their level...

                                          1. re: PeterCC

                                            "No offense to...myself" - now, that is funny: it, almost, reaches the level of kevonian!

                                            FWIW, there seem to quite few Shunji fans that go far more than I do. Have no idea if they are hounds or not...but I see a lot of familiar faces each time I go. 2x a week is a rare occurrence probably 1/2x/week is accurate.

                                            1. re: Ciao Bob

                                              Just trying to clarify that I make no claim to going as often as J.L. or you*. My reputation seems to go to Shunji more than I do. :-)

                                              *Speaking of kevonian (keviness?), I'm having trouble parsing "1/2x/week". I'm assuming it's 1-2 times a week as Porthos speculated, or maybe it's half times a week, a.k.a. once every two weeks? Either way, I think that still puts you in rarefied company.

                                              1. re: PeterCC

                                                I don't belong in this elite class...

                                                1. re: PeterCC

                                                  I meant the latter - about every other week.

                                                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                    1/2x/week is Ciaogebra.

                                                    = 1/2visits/week

                                                    = 2x 1/2 visits/week x2

                                                    = 1 visit/2weeks.

                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                      Sadly, I never learned about Ciagebra in secondary school, but then again I was more preoccupied with rolling and the McD's 29c special by the dozen followed by a couple of Big Gulps.

                                                      1. re: kevin

                                                        Ciaogebra is pretty user-friendly. I'm still working on my kevin-o-grominator certificate with little success... :)

                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                          Now what's the kevin-o-grominator ?????

                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                            btw, you better trademark both before Mr. Taster gets a hold of it.

                                                            :)

                                                  2. re: Ciao Bob

                                                    "Kevonian" Oh, I'm stealing that Bob!

                                          2. re: Porthos

                                            Perhaps a hound named Jay Gold may have that extensive sway and unending power ?

                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              If we ever meet I'll tell you. Accountability is one thing, outing someone is something else. But I just might.

                                              I didn't misunderstand. I was just pointing out that n/naka's menu does change. I was there twice in a month, they knew I was back - and the menu changed intentionally because they wanted to keep it fresh. Which was very nice.

                                              Chefs don't want you to get bored with their food. But to be honest, when I find something I like, I tend to order it over and over. I get that hankerin' thing yah see...

                              2. Both.

                                Early reservation at n/naka, and top it off with another meal at Shunji afterwards. They're not that far from each other.

                                Leave L.A. with no regrets.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: J.L.

                                  Now that's what I'm talking about.

                                  Except add a mini-omakase at Mori to the mix.

                                  1. re: J.L.

                                    That ruins both.

                                    It's sort of like those NYC tourists who insist on doing Le Bernardin for lunch and then EMP for dinner.

                                    Appreciation, as they say, takes time. To say nothing of digestion.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      True, but we are not given any idea as to how much the OP's gullet can hold... :-)

                                      Interesting you mention Eleven Madison Park: When in HK a few months back, I happened upon EMP Chef Daniel Humm's stint at the Mandarin Oriental. Had that for lunch (awesome), then headed right over to Wing Wah for some legendary bamboo noodles right afterwards. Good times.

                                      1. re: J.L.

                                        As many have paraphrased humorist Dixon Lanier Merritt limerick:

                                        "Pity the poor Pelican
                                        His beak can hold more
                                        than his belly can"

                                        The actual limerick below

                                        "Oh, a wondrous bird is the pelican!
                                        His bill holds more than his belican.
                                        He can take in his beak
                                        Enough food for a week.
                                        But I’m darned if I know how the helican."

                                  2. Porthos is pretty much spot on. You won't be disappointed with either, especially given that you've read up on the two and have an idea of what to expect.

                                    1. I've been to both. Shunji just once. And it was good, it just didn't ring my bell loud enough. The place - from the outside, is bit of a dump. That's part of it's charm, but still, you have to outside to the bathrooms. Which is never particularly charming.

                                      n/naka I've been to around 10 times. So my answer? No question about it - n/naka.

                                      And I'd go back to Shunji - it's just when it comes down to it - I like n/naka so much, why chance a night with Shunji when I might end the night thinking "wish I went to n/naka"?

                                      n/naka is more formal, more serene, more elegant. (which might not be what you're looking for).

                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                        I hate formal but that's just me. Casual is my bag. When I have to dress up and go to that dark dusty part of my closet, I always grumble to myself,"Geez - which stick should I pick to put up my ass?" What's the typical dress up for a guy at n/naka?

                                          1. re: JAB

                                            Fist bump. If the leaders of warring countries had to negotiate in shorts and Aloha shirts (or whatever else is comfortable and casual) instead of suits, they'd be buds by the end of their talks, sipping cocktails and setting up their next barbecue meet-up...

                                          2. re: bulavinaka

                                            There are very few L.A. eateries for which one needs to explore the "dusk dusty part" of the closet.

                                            I go to n/naka in jeans and a polo shirt... I'm not wearing tanks top, shorts and flip-flops, sure, but not exactly donning my Savile Row haberdasher's finest, either.

                                            1. re: J.L.

                                              Do the jeans have to be clean?(j/k) I think the high (or low) degree of casual wear to most of LA's dining scene is well tolerated, but I don't like to make others feel like they need to scoot their chairs over. I like to think that I'm respectful of my surroundings. It's good to know that what you mention is AOK. Thanks...

                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                    I don't think so. This is Palms after all. Jeans and tee are "formal" dress for Palms.

                                            2. re: bulavinaka

                                              bula, i completely agree with you.

                                              i'd rather have an exceptional $200 meal in a literal, fucking dump, where one has to brave the intimidating wilds of a makeshift outhouse and the food is exceptionally good yet doled out on paper plates and beer/wine is served out of garage-sale Dixie cups than have to deal with overly solicitous and pretentious and overbearing service any fucking day of the week.

                                              But that's just me as you can see.

                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                "Geez - which stick should I pick to put up my ass?"

                                                that should be the hound post of the week.

                                                1. re: kevin

                                                  Having just recently gone through my 2nd colonoscopy, without sedation, I shifted uncomfortably in my chair at the thought of the "sun ain't shining on that stick" stick.

                                                2. re: bulavinaka

                                                  You don't have to dress up at all in LA, save for the Magic Castle in Hollywood, though hounds are usually not going their for the eats but rather to watch a few shows, soak up the old-line atmosphere, and get sloshed.

                                                  The only place I can remember that requires a member's only jacket would be old-line establishment in N'awlins. Antonie's, here's looking at you, kidd.

                                              2. Wanted to say thank you for the input. I appreciate the help. We ended up at Shunji (on the wait list at n/naka but never official so not sure if Shunji would have been the selection). Overall, we were impressed and had a great evening. My only regret is forgetting to specify sushi heavy as advised here. Shunji-san prepared about 12-14? items (highlights were soba, snapper tasting, chuwanmushi, and califlower soup). We only could eat a few pieces of nigiri because we were stuffed. A wonderful bonus was the Ichigo JG. I really thought this is a well-crafted sake, and nice compliment to Shunji-san's deft work. I'm interested to try it again. Food cost was very reasonable for both the number of dishes and product quality.

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: palmdoc1

                                                  Glad you had a good time. I think first timers to Shunji should get more of the non-sushi. There are so many dishesbthat I wouldn't have thought to order myself if they weren't part of the omakase or tasting menu.

                                                  1. re: palmdoc1

                                                    Glad you enjoyed Ichigo. I would have never ordered it had they not offered us a sample. It really hits a sweet spot in its balance, and like mentioned - it truly compliments his cuisine.

                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                      Last time, or one of the last times, I was there, we got a sample of a nice shochu that was infused with coffee beans (Yuko's idea, I think). The shochu had a golden hue, like whiskey, and a smooth, mellow flavor. Really interesting and a great digestif.

                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                          I don't know what brand shochu it was, but the coffee bean infusion was an in-house idea (like I said, I think Yuko came up with it, either her or Shunji).

                                                        2. re: PeterCC

                                                          I'm not a fan of shochu, but I can see that working. The smoothing amd mellowing that you describe is exactly what I want after trying the vast majority of shochu. Do you know what type of shochu it is? i.e., yam, barley, or sesame seed, or...

                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                            Barley. Iichiko (capital i) base said Yuko.