Niki Nakayama MasterClass Review

Niki Nakayama MasterClass Review
By The Cooking World, Editorial Staff
September 13, 2021

Niki Nakayama Teaches Modern Japanese Cooking

Our MasterClassReviews are back, this time with Niki Nakayama MasterClass Review.

The chef and owner of two-Michelin-starred restaurant n/naka in Los Angeles, Niki Nakayama is celebrated for her modern interpretation of kaiseki, a traditional Japanese cuisine. With her partner and sous chef, Carole, Niki will teach you techniques for preparing sashimi, tempura, perfect rice, and more. Learn how to make dishes that honor fresh ingredients as Niki shows you how to cook with care and gratitude.

Kaiseki Cooking

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Niki began her career at Takao restaurant in Brentwood. She then spent three years in Japan, working in various kitchens and immersing herself in Japanese cuisine. It was in Japan that she learned about the art of kaiseki, the traditional Japanese culinary practice that emphasizes the balance and seasonality of a series of dishes.

This MasterClass centers around Niki's modern interpretation of kaiseki and its key concepts. Kaiseki often is compared to its non-Asian analog, haute cuisine, for its beauty and deliciousness. But kaiseki also embodies cultural concepts and philosophies that go back hundreds of years. Some of it is rooted in Buddhist or Shinto religions; some of it is just common sense.

Ichigo Ichie, the idea that no singular encounter can ever be repeated; Shun, the exact moment that a certain food-vegetables, fruit, fish-is at its peak flavor; are just two of the 4 key concepts of kaiseki that you'll learn in this MasterClass.

Niki Nakayama MasterClass Review

Niki Nakayama Masterclass Plan

01 - Meet Your Instructor: Niki Nakayama

Chef Niki Nakayama fuses Japanese tradition with Californian ingredients to redefine kaiseki cuisine. In her first lesson, Niki will share the challenges and victories she encountered on the road to earning two Michelin stars.

02 - Kaiseki Cooking

Kaiseki originated from the multicourse style of dining practiced by Zen monks in medieval Japan. Similar to a tea ceremony, this elaborate meal is designed to slow the mind and attune the senses. Niki shares her modern spin on kaiseki.

03 - Japanese Pantry Essentials

For many of the techniques you’ll learn in this class, you’ll need some specialized tools. Niki gives you an overview of the essentials and shares some of her favorites.

04 - Ichiban Dashi: Kombu and Bonito Stock

Learn how to make dashi, the deceptively simple broth that is a staple of Japanese cooking and the base for many dishes in this class.

05 - Japanese Culinary Tools

For many of the techniques you’ll learn in this class, you’ll need some specialized tools. Niki gives you an overview of the essentials and shares some of her favorites.

06 - Rockfish: Whole Fish Preparation

Learn to handle a whole fish with confidence as Niki shares a few professional tricks and demonstrates key knife skills. The order and composition of your dishes are key elements of the dining experience. Niki explains how to create balance in your meals.

07 - Balance in Kaiseki

The order and composition of your dishes are key elements of the dining experience. Niki explains how to create balance in your meals.

08 - Zukuri: Modern Rockfish Sashimi

Niki introduces Western ingredients to Japanese techniques as she demonstrates how to prepare, cure, and slice rockfish for this sashimi dish.

Niki Nakayama MasterClass Review
Rockfish Whole Fish Preparation

09 - Owan: Soup With Bone Broth

Learn how to create a delicious soup with no-waste cooking techniques. Niki shares her secrets for a perfect broth, as well as how to plate a bowl of soup.

10 - Tuna: Portions for Otsukuri and Yakimono

In Japan, tuna is prized for its bright red color and eaten at celebratory occasions. Learn how to identify parts of the tuna, how to section the meat, and where to find ethically sourced fish.

11 - Otsukuri: Traditional Tuna Sashimi

Improve your knife skills as Niki demonstrates professional techniques for slicing fish and making beautiful vegetable garnishes.

12 - Yakimono: Grilled Tuna

When grilling, your choice of fuel will impact the final flavor. Learn the slow, subtle method of grilling over binchotan, a special charcoal used in Japanese cooking.

13 - Mushimono: Steamed Rockfish

A light, steamed dish offers a heartwarming lift in the middle of a meal. Niki prepares steamed rockfish with potato purée and ankake sauce.

14 - Agemono: Rockfish and Vegetable Tempura

Master the art of tempura frying, from selecting the right flour to keeping your batter cold. Niki offers suggestions for which vegetables and mushrooms are best for tempura.

15 - Agemono: Tuna Karaage

Niki prepares a simple marinade for tuna in this dry-fried preparation. Learn when to fry fish and when to save it for sashimi.

16 - Donabe: Japanese Rice Traditions

Niki introduces the donabe, a traditional clay pot, and demonstrates how to use it as she shares the significance of rice to Japanese culture.

17 - Shokuji: Rice and Pickles

In kaiseki, the last course is often a simple bowl of rice with pickles. Learn how to prepare the perfect bowl of rice and how to reuse dashi for a pickle brine.

18 - Ichigo Ichie

Cooking is about inviting people in, appreciating a shared moment, and enjoying each other’s company. Niki shares her personal philosophy for hospitality and encourages you to explore your own inspirations for cooking.

An Inspiring MasterClass

Similar to the previous MasterClasses, this one contains a huge amount of knowledge that will delight anyone interested in modern Japanese cooking.

Niki's MasterClass can easily be decided into 3 main sections. The first one is all about Japanese cuisine and kaiseki. Here you have classes about kaiseki cooking and balance in kaiseki, Japanese pantry essentials, and culinary essentials. The second section it's all about preparation techniques, such as preparing tuna for yakimono and otsukuri or how to make Ichiban Dashi. Last but not least, the third section is about recipes to create your own kaiseki meal.

Although this MasterClass is only focused on Japanese cuisine any cook can take important lessons from this class, even those who are not fans of Japanese cuisine. For us, what really shines in this class is Niki's mottainai zero-waste approach, which means not wasting what nature has given us of making the best of what we have. This approach is central in this class and it would be present from the first moment to the last.

Kaiseki cooking and mottainai zero-waste approach, are what make this MasterClass unique, and you should embrace both "approaches" as best as you could if you really want to get the best of this class. Don't focus on the ingredients used by Niki, some of them will be hard to source, but instead focus on her approach, and try to use the best ingredients that you have around you.

Niki Nakayama MasterClass Review
Shokuji Rice and Pickles

At the End of Niki Nakayama MasterClass Review

Niki's MasterClass is just another proof of the quality of the MasterClass platform. Different from everything we watched so far, this MasterClass is packed full of nuggets of wisdom that help you to grow your understanding of Japanese kaiseki cuisine and how to use your new knowledge beyond the end of the class.

Although we believe that everyone can learn some things in this MasterClass, it is only really suitable for a very specific set of people - fans of Japanese cuisine, or seafood enthusiasts. If you are vegetarian or vegan or if you are just looking to cook a piece of meat we advise you to take a look at the other MasterClasses we reviewed, because this one doesn't have what you are looking for.

Like in all our reviews, this post contains affiliate links and we will be compensated if you purchase after clicking on our links. If you are planning to buy this MasterClass, please use our link in order to help us in keeping this blog up to date, giving you the best reviews.


Niki's MasterClass is a great choice for fans of Japanese cuisine, seafood enthusiasts, or anyone who wishes to know more about the key concepts of Kaiseki.









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