At her Los Angeles restaurant, n/naka, chef Niki Nakayama crafts 13-course tasting menus that feature exquisite, meticulously plated food.

Nakayama is one of the world’s only female kaiseki chefs. In the video above, the chef explains what kaiseki means to her, while plating dishes like lobster shumai, grilled duck, calamari with blue crab, and hirame ceviche. She explains,

“The philosophy of kaiseki is using local ingredients, what is closest to you and represents your area the best, and using cooking methods that best showcase these ingredients.”

If you need context, think California cuisine—but this hyper-seasonal Japanese dining style was happening long before Alice Waters ever stepped foot in a kitchen.


Nakayama explains kaiseki’s origins,

“Traditionally, kaiseki is a multi-course, prix fixe dinner. It originated from the Buddhist monasteries, but has evolved with time to different types of dinners. The original one is a vegetarian base. It’s very simple, it celebrates, like, a tea ceremony; whereas the newer version of it—they call it a banquet-style of dining—is more elaborate, more sophisticated in ways that they’re using a lot more complex ingredients.”

Nakayama does a modern take on kaiseki, which means she is a little more flexible with the ingredients and flavors she’s using in her dishes.

Watch the gorgeous video above to hear Nakayama’s full break down of Japanese kaiseki.


Featured dishes:

  • Zensai, seasonal ingredients presented as an appetizer with lobster shumai, grilled duck, calamari with blue crab, and hirame ceviche.
  • Saki Zuke, a pairing of something common and something unique with a lobster potato with cold corn soup, crème fraiche, and ikura.
  • Modern Zukuri, a modern interpretation of sashimi with Japanese scallop, bell pepper gellee, golden kiwi, and dill.
  • Otsukuri, traditional sashimi with Oh Toro, hirame, kampachi, nama toko, kumamoto oyster
  • Niku, a meat course with Japanese ishiyaki wagyu beef.

[via The Art of Plating]