Saturday in Echo Park & Downtown Los Angeles

Echo Park – Los Angeles, California

“Saturday in the Park…”

It was a beautiful day. I found parking! The park was full of people and activity.

Here are a few pics of the park (not the people):

Echo Park - Los Angeles, California

Echo Park Lake & Downtown Los Angeles, California

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Echo Park - Los Angeles, California

Jose Marti Monument at Echo Park Lake – Los Angeles, California

“Man loves liberty, even if he does not know that he loves it. He is driven by it and flees from where it does not exist.” ~ Jose Marti

José Julián Martí Pérez  January 28, 1853 – May 19, 1895

Born in Havana, Cuba, he was a poet, an essayist, a journalist, a revolutionary, a philosopher, a translator, a professor, a publisher and a political theorist. His writings and political activity became a symbol for Cuba’s bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century and he is referred to as the “Apostle of Cuban Independence.”

“El que tenga patria que la honre, el que no, que la conquiste.” (“Honor your country if you have one; and if you do not have one, struggle for it.”)

 “Con todos y para el bien de todos” (“With all, and for the good of all.”)

In 1976, the city designated the intersection of Park Ave and Echo Park Ave “José Martí Square,” (plaza) to honor the the Cuban community of Los Angeles. Sculptor Sergio López-Mesa created the bust of José Martí, a Cuban writer and champion of Latin American identity whose poem from the book “Versos Sencillos” (“Simple Verses”) inspired the lyrics for “Guantanamera,” the definitive protest song of Cuba.

Civil engineer Carlos Sebastian Lorente, and Sergio López-Mesa installing José Martí Monument, 1976. | Cuban California Archive USC Libraries Special Collections.

Civil engineer Carlos Sebastian Lorente & sculptor Sergio López-Mesa installing José Martí Monument 1976. | Cuban California Archive USC Libraries Special Collections

More Jose Marti quotes:

“Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy.”
“A grain of poetry suffices to season a century.”
“Others go to bed with their mistresses; I with my ideas.”
“It is necessary to make virtue fashionable.”
“The struggles waged by nations are weak only when they lack support in the hearts of their women.”
“Charm is a product of the unexpected.”
“The vote is a trust more delicate than any other, for it involves not just the interests of the voter, but his life, honor and future as well.”
“Man has to suffer. When he has no real afflictions, he invents some.”
José Martí was killed in battle against Spanish troops at the Battle of Dos Ríos in 1895.  He is buried in Cementerio Santa Efigenia in Santiago de Cuba.
“No me entierren en lo oscuro/ A morir como un traidor/ Yo soy bueno y como bueno/ Moriré de cara al sol.” (“Do not bury me in darkness / to die like a traitor / I am good, and as a good man / I will die facing the sun.”)
Echo Park - Los Angeles, California

US Bank Tower, Pedal Boats on Echo Park Lake & Downtown Los Angeles, California

US Bank Tower, formerly the Library Tower and First Interstate Bank World Center, is a 1018 ft skyscraper at 633 West Fifth Street in Downtown Los Angeles. It’s the tallest building in California, the 11th tallest building in the United States, the tallest west of the Mississippi River and the 65th tallest building in the world. (or thereabouts…) It’s 73 stories tall with two parking levels below ground. Construction began in 1987 and finished in 1989. The building was designed by Henry N. Cobb and architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. It cost $350 million to build.

Echo Park - Los Angeles, California

The Lady of the Lake Statue, Echo Park Lake & Downtown Los Angeles, California

On a concrete peninsula with benches facing the water, is a fourteen-foot Art Deco-style female statue. The official name is “Nuestra Reina de Los Angeles” (“Our Queen of the Angels”) but most people know her simply as the “Lady of the Lake.” Rendered in poured concrete, it was created in 1934 by Ada May Sharpless with funding from the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP). It stands on a pedestal box with four bas-reliefs featuring the Hollywood Bowl, L.A. Harbor, the San Gabriel Mountains and the Central Library.

"Nuestra Reina de Los Angeles" ("Our Queen of the Angels") aka "Lady of the Lake." 1934 by Ada May Sharpless

“Nuestra Reina de Los Angeles” (“Our Queen of the Angels”) aka “Lady of the Lake.” 1934 by Ada May Sharpless

Echo Park - Los Angeles, California

The “Wooden Bridge” at Echo Park Lake – Los Angeles, California

Possibly the Oldest Bridge in Los Angeles County, it was built in 1896. The bridge was originally all wood but was replaced with steel sometime before 1960. The bridge is currently closed to foot traffic and there are large locked steel gates at both ends.

Echo Park - Los Angeles, California

Palm Trees at Echo Park Lake – Los Angeles, California

NOTE: The City of Los Angeles spent a lot of money to “rehab” the park and they did a great job! However, the HOMELESS problem remains. A homeless man was camped under a tree when I parked, and another homeless man was passed out on the steps of an outbuilding with his overflowing shopping cart parked nearby.

Bonus Pics: PETA at the Bob Barker Building on Sunset and L.A. City Hall 

Echo Park - Los Angeles, California

PETA at the Bob Barker Building on Sunset Blvd in Echo Park – Los Angeles, California

US District Court Building & Los Angeles City Hall

US District Court Building & Los Angeles City Hall – Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA)

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All photos copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel

Echo Park Lake – 751 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90026  (213)847-0929
City of Los Angeles, Department of Recreation & Parks
http://www.laparks.org/dos/aquatic/facility/echoPkLake.htm

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FOODGASM! OMG Dinner Party at n/naka!

FOODGASM! OMG Dinner Party at n/naka!

One of the most amazing meals I’ve ever eaten. We did the full 13 course dinner with wine and sake pairings. Each dish was a work of art both visually and culinary! BRAVA! BRAVA!

There’s no sign, just the address, on the front of the restaurant. Located on Overland between National and Palms, they have street parking (when available) and valet parking for $7 behind the building.

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N/Naka - 3455 Overland Ave, in Palms (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

n/naka – 3455 Overland Ave, Palms, L.A. (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Inside, the space is clean, quiet and intimate. The focus is all about the fine food and drink.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

The episodic documentary “Chef’s Table” recently released on Netflix features Chef Niki Nakayama “applying the artistic and technical notions of kaiseki to create an ever-evolving seasonal narrative within each meal.”

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Born and raised in Los Angeles, Chef Niki Nakayama began her career at Takao. She previously owned Azami Sushi Cafe and Inaka, before opening n/naka four years ago.

“Through a meaningful balance of both traditional and modern techniques, Chef Niki Nakayama is committed to creating a meal that will engage your attention. It’s about enjoying the moment, the current offerings of the season, and ultimately, the food in front of you.”

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n/naka’s Sous Chef and Chef Niki Nakayama prepare fresh uni.

Modern Kaiseki ($165 thirteen course – $85 optional wine pairing) per person

A deep exploration of traditional Kaiseki service with modern accents in technique and flavor pairings. Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese multi-course meal consisting of a sequence of dishes, each often small and artistically arranged. It’s a type of art form that balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food. It also refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such meals.

There is also a vegetarian menu available for $150, but they are not vegan. Ingredients vary based on season and everything is organic and “farm to table” fresh.  Each menu is planned specifically. Guests are consulted on their “Likes & Dislikes” and the menu is confirmed a few days before the reservation.

I’ve been anticipating this dinner since the reservation was confirmed. I watched the “Chef’s Table” episode on Netflix and visited the restaurant’s website. I read the numerous rave reviews and recent interviews with Chef Nakayama regarding her philosophy, style, training and success. After all the hype, I was not disappointed in the least, it was a true “foodie experience”!

The reservation was for Saturday night at 5:30pm (the early seating) and I arrived early, found street parking and waited for the rest of the party to arrive and the restaurant door to open. We were the first guests of the evening and were seated immediately and offered the beer, wine, champagne and sake list.

We chose to add the wine and sake pairings with dinner. If you choose this option, do not plan on driving! Have a designated driver or Uber, Lyft, Taxi or Limosine your way home. In addition to the wine and sake pairings, I ordered a Sapporo beer to enjoy with my food.

Sapporo beer, still water and the “Zen” rock garden centerpiece and place settings:

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Philippe champagne to start the evening and toast the special occasion!

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

First appetizer: oyster with roe, uni, orange and foam sauce.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

NOTE: Not everyone likes oysters, so a second appetizer was graciously substituted.

Second appetizer: Snow crab with roe and pea puree.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Paired with a 2013 white wine

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Seasonal Appetizer course: lobster tempura with spicy aoli, smoky cod on lemon, Tazmanian sea trout sashimi, stuffed squid with crab, quail egg and squid ink.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

The lobster in light tempura with the spicy aoli was “melt in your mouth” incredible. And so was the cod, sea trout and stuffed squid.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Paired with Seijuro Fujitsu cold sake.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Sashimi course: Bonita sashimi with black mustard flower and shiso paste served with a mini yuzo sake.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Soup course: Clam with radish & seaweed in clear Japanese water broth.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Paired with Alsace Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Blanc Les Princes Abbés 2012 white wine.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Sashimi course: toro belly, kampachi yellowtail with cucumber, red snapper, uni on lemon and octopus in a daikon radish slice

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Paired with a really nice tasting sweet cold sake.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Cooked fish course: Delicious “grilled” Branzino with pickled daikon, ginkgo nut and cooked bamboo. I think it was blowtorched to perfection.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Paired with a tasty Hitachino Nest Beer White Ale.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Steamed course: egg, snow crab, shitake mushroom and shiso. Thicker than a soup.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Paired with Pazo Señorans Albariño 2013 white wine.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Special Pasta course: abalone, truffle & spaghetti with garlic butter cream sauce.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Paired with a Sancere 2013 white wine.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Wagyu beef (to die for) on a hot stone – cook to taste with vegetables brussel sprout, purple carrot, asparagus and a beet chip in daikon horseradish sauce and sea salt.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

NOTE: I wanted a whole steak of this A+ Wagyu beef! It was superb.

Paired with a rich Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 red wine.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Sunomono course: firefly squid with cucumber, tomato and seaweed (sorry, pulled it apart before taking the pic) served with a mini yuzo sake.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Sushi course (6 pieces and soup): Toro, makata, Japanese mackerel, sweet shrimp, squid, uni and shrimp head in white miso broth.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! Makata and Toro (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! Japanese Mackerel and Sweet Shrimp (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka!  Squid and Uni (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! Shrimp head in white miso soup (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Paired with Born Gold Junmai Daiginjo cold sake. “Gold has an elegant nose comprised of green apple, sweet rice, plum skin, and peach aromas.”

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dessert course #1: Melon sorbet with icy rose granita. Served with hot green tea in a bowl.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dessert course #2: popcorn ice cream with cookies & cream meringue, lemon drop gelee’, chocolate covered raisin, sugared fennel and caramel sauce. Served with a different hot green tea in a cup.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Birthday Dessert (not mine): green tea pudding with whipped cream and a strawberry.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dessert was paired with an unusual sweet/spicy Hannya cold sake (tasted like a liquer).

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Sake and Wine! They have many choices both by the glass and by the bottle/carafe and the prices are not inexpensive. You can also bring your own wine. There’s a $35 corkage fee and a “limit” of one bottle per every two people in the party.

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! Wine and Sake (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! Wine and Sake (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

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FYI – Front page of the Beer, Wine, Champagne and Sake List:

“Without wine, even beautiful cherry blossoms have small attraction”

Dinner Party at N/Naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner Party at n/naka! (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

“As to flowers, when half open; as to sake, when a person is half tipsy”

The service was great and the courses were well timed. It’s not a large space and the restaurant is about the food and the dining experience, not the number of people served. Each dish is ART and requires attention to detail in the planning and preparation. Our multi-course dinner from start to finish timed out at about three wonderful hours.

After the meal, Chef Nakayama came to our table and thanked us for coming. She was incredibly sincere and humble when we praised her and the incredible food she created.

BRAVA! BRAVA!

n/naka's Chef Niki Nakayama

n/naka’s Chef Niki Nakayama

n/naka3455 Overland Ave, Palms (Los Angeles)  www.n-naka.com

Reservations are absolutely required. They are currently booked until July!

 

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