Naka, the upscale Japanese kaiseki restaurant from first-time chef/owner Shota Nakajima, will serve its first meticulously sourced, highly crafted, fully detailed meals starting Wednesday night at 15th and Pine.
“I don’t care if 999 people don’t — as long as one person notices, that’s what matters,” Nakajima told CHS this week as the final pre-opening touches were being added in the second-generation restaurant venture in the space.
Nakajima’s acquisition of the former home of French restaurant space was fortuitous for the young owner with deep chops from his training at the Suji Culinary Arts School in Osaka. In a summer when several projects from Seattle restaurant veterans are delayed and pushed back to fall because of the backlog of permits and construction work in the area, the rookie at Naka was fortunate to be upgrading and transforming, not building out from scratch. Inside the new Naka, you will find the old zinc bar and the basic restaurant layout from Le Zinc — but instead of Pernod and Absinthe, there’s now a wall of Japanese whiskeys including many hard to find bottles and special pours.
In May, we talked with Nakajima about bringing a high-skill kaiseki venture into reality in the Capitol Hill dining scene. The seasonally focused, multi-course meals are a Japanese tradition but the style fits into contemporary fine dining’s trends and are signature elements at $$$$$ players on the Hill like Altura and Marron. Naka’s price point may fall a bit short of $$$$$ but Nakajima is entering the Pike/Pine restaurant scene with three levels of course meals — a 5-dish tasting meal at $75, a 10-course Naka Kaiseki at $120 and the Chef’s Kaiseki at $170. That ultimate “Customize Kaiseki dinner using only the finest ingredients” also requires a week’s notice so plan — and save! — ahead.
The restaurant also features a menu of small plates — steamed egg custard, seasonal bites (we tried a set featuring a preserved kumquat, pickled white fish, clam, and pickled lotus root all arranged like flowers in a basket), or bitter green tempura, Chef’s Choice entrees including Cedar Smoked Black Code, Miso Braised Chicken, or Wagyu Beef Katsu, and a raw items menu. But at Naka, even the raw is fussed over with mackerel pressed and imprinted with flavor and its skin lightly seared.
Nakajima also knows not every day does one need life’s “finest ingredients” so Naka also will feature a bar menu with oysters, seafood tartare at $14, a Chicken Mabushi Rice Bowl for $12, or Local Manila Clams at $20. Behind the bar, Naka will feature the work of a familiar face in the Capitol Hill cocktail scene — Nik Virrey has created the cocktail menu and “will integrate Japanese spirits including sake and distilled shochu, along with pouring and impressive selection of whiskeys.”
Naka is located at 1449 E Pine. Its dinner hours are 5 to 10:30 PM on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, with service until 11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. The bar is open until midnight — 2 AM on Fridays and Saturdays. You can learn more at nakaseattle.com.
Capitol Hill food+drink notes
- Now open: Just a short climb from Capitol Hill’s Annapurna, introducing the Yeti Bar
- It’s your last week to visit Charlie’s. CHS stopped by for a visit — and a chat with longtime owner Ken Bauer.
- Speaking of permits, etc., the new Capitol Hill Renee Erickson ventures won’t open until this fall.
- Soi — the other ambitious restaurant project coming to 10th and Union — is on track for July.
- Two Doors Down will open in the former Philly Fevre space on E Madison later this summer.
- Lost a little bit in the wave of openings around the Hill at the time, Chavez on 12th Ave has, Seattle Mag says, what usually can sound like faint praise — great service:
Owned and managed by the team behind the three Cantinettas, Chávez has service that is so good—and so much better than similarly priced restaurants in the city—that spending time here feels not just pleasant, but relaxing.
- We noted Monsoon’s new roof patio (and slushy machine) last week — Seattle Met offers a little look at the new space.
- Buried in our piece on coming soon cargo bike dealership Electric Lady is the surprising detail that the 23rd and Union development the bike shop will be part of is still in search of food and drink tenants.
- Lost Lake on why the diner doesn’t offer delivery via the plethora of apps and services out there looking to make a buck by bringing you chow:
Quick note – we don’t work with 3rd party delivery apps like Postmates. We don’t do delivery on purpose. The drivers also don’t work for us and we have no control over what happens with your food between our business and you. They don’t have food handlers permits which are normally required by King County Health for delivery people who handle your food. And, the menus on their sites are incorrect. So, if you order food from us via postmates or any other 3rd party app, it won’t be delivered to you. Sorry. But we do love you. See you in person soon!
- Seattle Central now features a “Craft Distilling Institute” — The slate of offerings includes one-day classes for aficionados, multiple-day workshops for those with an intensive interest and an exam-prep course for wannabe distillers seeking professional accreditation from the London-based Institute of Brewing & Distilling—the only such course in the U.S.
- Culture Club cheese bar is nearing its opening on 12th — or, at least, its tables are ready.
- Cortona is hosting another pop-up dinner series — Joe + Joe… annnnd the first night is already sold out.
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