Episode Two of The Venture: Chef Niki Nakayama

By: Virgin Atlantic USA

May 2, 2017

Cauliflower tofu with ikura salmon eggs_Credit Zen Sekizawa

Cauliflower tofu with ikura salmon egg - photo credit Zen Sekizawa

Chef Niki Nakayama_Credit Zen Sekizawa

Chef Niki Nakayama -Photo credit Zen Sekizawa

What does Virgin Atlantic have in common with one of Los Angeles’ hottest chefs and the mastermind behind upscale Japanese restaurant n/naka? Quite a bit, it turns out.

We got to know Niki while recording episode two of our new podcast, The Venture. As the owner and head chef behind her restaurant n/naka, Chef Niki Nakayama serves up coveted kaiseki dinners, a structured multi-course meal that emphasises seasonality and extreme technical prowess. Niki truly straddles the line between tradition and innovation, sourcing local ingredients and employing centuries-old techniques. And she just may be the only woman in the world who does it.

Modern tsukuri of New Zealand King salmon_Credit Zen Sekizawa

Modern tsukuri of New Zealand King salmon –
photo credit Zen Sekizawa

But Niki doesn’t let that, or anything else, stop her. As she told us while recording, “…even just opening n/naka I feel like I’ve altered the rules in this game…. you just make the opportunities for yourself or you find ways to go a roundabout. And sometimes that roundabout way is a lot more interesting, a lot more educational than the traditional ways that people usually follow.”

Niki’s commitment to creativity and hospitality is unrivalled, but it’s her meticulous attention to customer service that really struck a chord with us. We believe that’s what makes all the difference, and that subtle, unassuming touches can deliver the most irresistible experience.

Cauliflower tofu with ikura salmon eggs_Credit Zen Sekizawa

Cauliflower tofu with ikura salmon egg – photo credit Zen Sekizawa

At n/naka, there are plenty of those. For example, before you’ve even sat down, they know your name, dietary restrictions, what you like to drink if you’re right or left-handed, and even what you look like. (They google in advance.) Should you be so lucky to dine there twice, Niki makes sure you won’t eat the same dishes again. Her team keeps meticulous records of what every guest who has EVER dined at n/naka has had to eat and drink.

It’s this attention to detail that convinces people to make reservations up to three months in advance. As Besha Rodell, LA Weekly’s food critic says of n/naka, “people are really appreciative of experiences that are really singular, that are not like anything else.”

Del Mar coast black cod

Del Mar coast black cod

We’re delighted that Niki’s story is the next chapter in our series about visionaries and pioneers that make business an adventure. Listen to The Venture to learn about the struggles, risks, and commitment that brought her where she is today. (We’ll also give you details on how to get on that coveted reservation list on your next trip to La La Land!)

Listen to The Venture on all podcast platforms:

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Virgin Atlantic USA

We are the Virgin Atlantic digital team in the USA, bringing you stories and views on our favourite destinations around the globe. Our aim is to make you feel like a local, by immersing you in stories on culture, the arts and of course… cuisine.

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