Sweetcorn chowder, cucumber granité, sweetcorn tempura
Niki Nakayama is a chef and the owner of n/naka restaurant in Los Angeles. She specializes in modern Japanese kaiseki cuisine. Nakayama was born in Los Angeles and was introduced to the finer details of this cuisine as a child by her Japanese parents. When she finished her culinary education she decided to travel through Japan where she worked in different restaurants. Here she expanded her knowledge about the essence of Japanese cuisine. When she returned to the United States, she opened her own sushi restaurant employing only female kitchen staff. She eventually opened n/naka in Los Angeles where she works with her partner and sous-chef Carole.
At n/naka Nakayama serves a multi-course Japanese menu called kaiseki which prides itself on seasonal products. The best preparation methods are applied to each ingredient. Nakayama also uses several herbs and vegetables from her own garden. In her thirteen-course menu she varies with techniques: a raw dish will be followed by a grilled dish, then a steamed dish, and then a deep-fried dish for example. She also alternates between light and heavy dishes. Nakayama is often faced with prejudice as a female chef. She even had a customer walk out of her restaurant after seeing a female chef. He believed that a Japanese restaurant with a female chef could never be any good. Because of this type of prejudice, Nakayama decided to work in a closed kitchen, so that her guests focus on the food instead on the person preparing it.
Creation by Niki Nakayama, n/naka restaurant, Los Angeles.
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Preparation method: sweetcorn chowder
- Cut off the ears of the sweetcorn, place into a pot and add just enough dashi broth to cover. Slowly simmer until the sweetcorn is soft.
- Strain the dashi broth and reserve.
- Put all the sweetcorn into a blender and slowly add just enough dashi to get the blender moving. The soup should be thick but still loose enough for the blender to continue.
- Add a touch of cream and season to taste.
- The soup should be sweet with just enough salt to balance.
- Set aside and chill.
Preparation method: cucumber granité
- Puree the cucumber to juice and then add the sugar and lemon juice. Balance with salt. Place into a shallow pan and freeze. Use a fork to scrape the granité after three hours. Return the granité to the freezer and repeat twice after one hour each time.
Preparation method: sweetcorn tempura
- Carefully slice off the ear of the sweetcorn trying to keep the kernels intact. Make a tempura flour batter.
- Heat the oil to 180°C and fry the sweetcorn.
Finishing and presentation
- Scoop the cucumber granité in a bowl and add the sweetcorn chowder. Finish with the sweetcorn tempura. Serve immediately.