In March 2021, two of LA’s most celebrated Japanese chefs expanded their reach from fine dining to a takeaway bento operation in West Adams. N/Naka chefs Niki Nakayama and partner Carol Iida-Nakayama opened their follow-up N/Soto in the former Ondal 2 space — a longtime Korean crab stew restaurant in the corner of a Mid-City strip mall — five months ago with the intention of turning the ekiben bento takeout-only restaurant into an izakaya featuring on-site outdoor and indoor dining later this year.
Now, the duo is ready to showcase N/Soto’s cooking with a series of tasting menus held at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) inside the new Toshizo Watanabe Culinary Cultural Center in Little Tokyo. With chef Yoji Tajima leading the N/Soto kitchen, these nine-course tastings will act as a preview, though once the restaurant opens permanently in West Adams, the menu will be fully a la carte. Dishes include sakizuke with eggplant, shrimp, and snow pea; zensai with goya (bitter melon), kabocha, crudites, and Campari; sumibiyaki (grilled skewers); otsukuri (sliced raw fish); and rice bowl courses with ume and vegetables. Meals conclude with mizukashii dessert with melon, red bean, coconut gel, and mochi.
The experience at the JACCC is intentional, meant to highlight the center’s place in Little Tokyo and the Japanese American community at large for the past 50 years. A portion of the proceeds from the tastings will do toward supporting the nonprofit and its mission to promote, honor, and preserve Japanese culture in the U.S. and in Los Angeles.
N/Soto at JACCC will continue until the Mid-City space is ready to open, which means fans should have at least a few months to try the tastings. There will be two dinner times, one earlier at 5:30 to 5:45 p.m., with a later seating at 8:30 to 8:45 p.m. Diners can either choose to sit at the counter or indoors at a table. Upon arrival, people will need to show proof of vaccination with ID, with a welcome drink presented and meant to be enjoyed in the Japanese garden before the meal. The dinners cost $125 per person before tax, gratuity, and drinks; a la carte beer, sake, cocktails, and spirits will be available as well. Parking isn’t included in the price, though there are ample garages and street parking in the neighborhood.