Necco Japanese Tapas Restaurant in Los Angeles
What if there was a Japanese restaurant where you can eat like real Japanese people do? Not just sushi, ramen, or tempura, but something that you might see on your Japanese friends’ instagram tagged with #OuchiGohan (not “ouch!” It’s pronounced o-u-chi (home) go-ha-n (meal)). Lucky for us, Necco Japanese Tapas Restaurant in Los Angeles does exactly that (but significantly better than those friends’ home cooked meal).
Necco is a quaint space on Westwood Boulevard near UCLA. The woody exterior makes it look more like a charming tea house than a Japanese restaurant. As the name suggests, Necco offers many tapas style small dishes, most of which are not seen at other Japanese restaurants. The one of a kind menu was created by Chef Kenji Koyama, who, thanks to his training in both in Los Angeles and Japan, has reinvented traditional Japanese cuisine infusing both Southern California’s produce and its health conscious lifestyle. Hence, dishes like kale salad with black sesame sauce and spicy tuna tacos on house made brown rice tortillas are born. The menu is also vegetarian and vegan friendly, without depriving carnivore diners of tender roasted wagyu beef.The only problem you’ll find at Necco is that you’ll want to try everything on the menu. Sadly, your stomach will demand more than one visit. For this reason, their tasting menu, either vegan or non vegan, comes in handy. Both courses start with samples of their small dishes such as kale goma ae, miso seasoned almond, root vegetable pickles and roasted organic tofu to whet the appetite. Both vegan and non vegan tasting menus come with a sushi course, during which, both will have a piece of vegan renkon kabayaki sushi which you will love.
Kabayaki is a method of cooking usually used for grilling eel. This renkon kabayaki sushi is carbon copy of soft and buttery texture of eel using renkon (lotus root), which is known for its crispness. So how does Koyama achieve the fish like texture? Steaming, grating and grilling… it’s a long process just to create a bite, but for us, it’s totally worth it, because it is heavenly.Chef also gives extra care for a simple dish such as salmon sashimi, which is presented as “zuke” edomae style. It is aged in house blend tamari soy sauce to bring out the sweetness and natural umami. The result? Salmon you’ll be craving for days. Necco means ‘roots’ in Japanese, which is accurate, because Necco is deeply rooted in Japanese tradition, and as such, serves lots of good root vegetables such as lotus roots, gobo burdock and taro. All items on the tasting menu are available a la carte, and there’s also a less elaborate, but equally delicious one plate lunch that allows you to sample different dishes. No matter what your diet preference, omnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan, there’s something for everybody at Necco.
Text and photos by Tomoko Imade Dyen