It was really sad to see that Le Zinc closed its door in Capitol Hill.
As just a patron to restaurants, I was very surprised: a place with great food, great service and atmosphere, and the experience of sister restaurant Maximillien, how could it close down?
My friend who lives in Capitol Hill managed to shed some light.
He mentioned that the restaurant scene in Capitol Hill is very competitive.
For us, 95% of the time we go to eat at Capitol Hill is on the weekends; and apparently many of these seemingly business-blooming restaruants can be empty on the weekdays.
Business is tough.
As the old goes out, new comes in; I was super excited to learn about the opening of Naka at Le Zinc’s old spot; particularly, it is the first Japanese restaurant in Seattle solely for Kaiseki – traditional multi-course Japanese dinner.
I love the simplicity of the menu: tasting menu for $75; Naka, 10-course, Kaiseki for $120 or Chef Kaiseki, 15-course, for $170.
The rest of the dinner is in the hands of chef Shota Nakajima, who has apprenticed under a Michelin star chef in Japan.
I was impressed with my Naka Kaiseki: freshly seasonal, with balance of textures and flavors, and each dish showcased the different culinary techniques of the chef, adhering to the philosophy of Kaiseki.
Not fully traditional, Nakajima-san’s kaiseki has elements of western food as well.The meal started off with an intricate, thin and crunchy caramelized spun sugar with sweetened black beans, which had a hint of alcohol and herbs, an homage to traditional Japanese New Year celebration.
Second course was an assortment of proteins and vegetables.
To be enjoyed right to left on the plate, a crunchy vinegary pickled daikon, followed by a rare, nicely gamey piece of tender duck accented with just right amount of chives; a bite of the eggplant cooked beautifully in mirin soy sauce, soft mushy pumpkin dumpling that was a little sticky to the palate, a firm tofu piece with intense red miso, and finally a bite of red snapper, firm and flavored well with soy and onion, just a tad overcooked.
A dish full of seemingly regular ingredients, yet it showcased the current season, and highlighted the differences in food texture.
Sashimi was next with this most amazingly fatty and melt-in-the mouth toro, with tendon attached providing chewiness, and fat literally squirted out in the mouth when bit into.
The kampachi was fresh, bouncy with a buttery flavor, and the red snapper was firm.
Aside from the usual suspects of shredded daikon and shiso leaf on the plate, we found shiso microgreens which had gentle shiso flavor with a sprout-eating experience, and a red seaweed that was crunchy, with a jelly fish-like texture, delivering the ocean to the plate.
Chawanmushi, one of my favorite Japanese dishes was our fourth course.
I wished its size was doubled!
With the addition of crab, black cod, and chanterelle mushrooms, the steamed egg itself was smooth, smooth and smooth!
Fantastic egg, seafood and dashi flavor, this chawanmushi delivered the ultimate umami experience that just left me wanting more!
The presentation of the black cod up next was most delectable.
We got a warning from our waitress not to eat the rocks that were underneath the fish — apparently other patrons had thought they were potatoes.
Black cod itself was cold-smoked, fatty and tender with sophisticated flavors: a deep, strong, undertone of woody smoke flavor lightened up by a hint of citrus from yuzu, and alcoholy flavor from sake paste.
Accompanied by extra crispy, thinly sliced fried lotus root and taro chips, a small, sour, and crunchy pickled lotus root, and a simply cooked broccolini tip, a spectrum of texture went on display in our mouths.
Time for palate cleansing after the fish, and a small treasure box of shiso yuzu sorbet arrived.
Light, refreshing and scented beautifully, nothing was overpowering.
It led my fellow diner to exclaim, “I can have a bucket of this!”
We went from cold, sweet palate cleansing, to the warm, salted Wagyu beef.
Super tender and buttery, the Wagyu was sous vide then grilled, with a savory soy, snapper reduction.
A sous vide egg sat on the side.
My friends had raved about sous-vide egg, and this was the first time I had it, and yes, my friends were right!
The egg was solid, no runny yolk, although it looked like it was runny, with the creaminess of the yolk completely preserved, and very tender just cooked egg white, it was delicious!
Maitake mushroom tempura was the fried dish of the day.
Very meaty, although not very strong in flavor, the mushrooms gave a good contrast in texture when compared to the crispy fried coating outside.
Freshly ground sea salt was for dipping, and just as our waitress warned, it was very salty and very little bit went a long way!
All good things come to an end, our last salty course was fast approaching, and it was chicken and egg rice.
The chicken was delicious, tasted like garlicky popcorn chicken, with thinly sliced egg and soy rice, accompanied by pickled daikon and white miso soup.
Dessert was a flan made with Satsuma yam.
Curdy, puddling-like with light flavor contrasted with a strong cognac caramel on the side, accented with fruit fresh berries, and added texture of chopped, candied pecans — a great way to end the meal.
We had a great time enjoying the exquisitely prepared food with amazing presentation.
I will certainly come back again, and will want to try the one-week notice required 15-course Chef’s Kaiseki.