N/Naka

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Niki Nakayama is an anomaly in the sushi world—and not only because she’s a woman. She worked under the famed Morihiro Onodera of Mori Sushi, and she was the chef-owner of the all-woman-run Azami Sushi Cafe. She has also, in this still feeble economy, opened one of the first real competitors to the opulent Urasawa in Beverly Hills: an intimate prix-fixe omakase restaurant with a reservations list as tight as the skin on a salmon egg. Where it differs from the Beverly Hills gastronome experience is, well, the experience. There is no sushi bar here. You’ll only spot Nakayama if she pops out to say hello at the end of the meal. Instead a crew of inexpert waiters brings out your kelp-crusted Tasmanian sea trout confit, followed by petals of raw scallop sashimi served in shell—then comes the twirl of lobster pasta. The food is sophisticated and artful, but in the end we wish the place had more personality. » 3455 S. Overland Ave., Palms (310-836-6252 or n-naka.com). D Tue.-Sat. Beer, wine, and sake. Japanese    $$$$

Photograph courtesy of n-naka.com