Photos credits: Suzi Pratt Photography
Reborn to Reconnect
We recently sat down with young-chef-old-soul and self-described "hopeless romantic", Shota Nakajima, to talk about his newly re-launched restaurant, Adana, his personal journey to cooking and the inspiration behind his cuisine.
TD: Tell us about your journey to cooking.
SN: I started cooking while I was still going to high school in Seattle. At the age of 18 I decided to move to Osaka, Japan and worked there for 4 and a half years under Michelin star chef Nakamoto. I came back to Seattle at the age of 23. At the age of 25 I opened Naka which was named one of the best restaurants in Seattle. In the beginning of March we re-concepted to a restaurant called Adana which became one of the most anticipated openings of 2017. In April I will be the youngest Japanese chef to compete in the Food network show called Iron Chef Gauntlet.
TD: What informed your decision to re-concept Naka?
SN: Doing fine dining is a lot of fun but I am a personable person and my favorite thing about a restaurant is seeing regulars and having a homey vibe. As much as the restaurant tries, I believe the guests that come in make the restaurant vibe happen. For this reason I wanted to make it more approachable so we can have those recognizable faces and say hi, change the menu for them or send out specials to make it thier "go to", special, homey place where they don't have to cook or do dishes and eat delicious food with great people!
TD: What advise would you give to a young person aspiring to become a chef?
SN: If you're young, go somewhere hard. Between the ages 18 to 20 is the only age when you can physically withstand the rigors of the kitchen. I love the rawness of the kitchen, but it isn't the life for everyone.
TD: Favorite dish on the new menu?
SN: We are changing the menu monthly but right now I would say it would be the pickled salmon and eggplant. My mom made it when I was growing up. She made it right when I was working on the menu and I was like this is gold. [TD: We were lucky enought to taste the dish . . . DIVINE!]
TD: Where do you eat out in the Seattle area? Favorite Seattle eateries?
SN: I have a thing for noodles so I go to this pho place called Dong Thap or Pho Bac all the time!
TD: If you could be transported anywhere in the world to eat and explore food culture, where would it be?
SN: I love Japan and I can’t stop eating Japanese food so I would say Japan but if it were to be somewhere new, I would like to check out Paris because it is the food capitol of the world to this day to see what kind of things the chefs over there are doing!
TD: How would you describe your personal style? When I’m not wearing a chef coat, I’m wearing . . . . ?
SN: Oooh…. thats a hard one. Honestly I still wear what my mom buys for me for the most part. My brother does too so when we go out we're often wearing the same things. [TD: I guess we better send Mrs. Nakajima a link to www.thomasdean.com]
TD: Any menu/cocktail recipe you’d be willing to share?
SN: I would go with Manila Clams for Seattle
Sake Drunk Clams
Seven large clams
4.5 ounces of sake
Four teaspoons of butter
One teaspoon of soy sauce
One garlic spear
Three morel mushrooms
Three pieces of sea asparagus (can be purchased at local seafood stores or markets)
One tablespoon of soybean (or vegetable) oil
1: Wash clams in a bowl, and then repeat process until the water is clear. If necessary purge clams overnight in a bowl of saltwater and refrigerate. Then rinse clams thoroughly. Note: Make sure to do this or clams will be extremely salty.
2: Add your clams and sake in a pan or pot that fits nicely so the clams don’t have to sit on each other, but there is not too much space.
3: Cook the clams at medium heat with a lid for three to four minutes or until the clams open up. Note: If you cook clams at high heat the fibers of the meat shrinks so it will be chewy.
4: Thinly cut the garlic spear into about a 1/2 inch length diagonally, and clean and cut a little portion of the base of the morel mushrooms and leave them whole. Saute your garlic spears and mushrooms in a pan for about two minutes with soybean (or vegetable) oil and salt lightly.
5: Add your vegetables into the pan of open clams, and add soy sauce and butter and mix around until the butter melts.
The Katsu Sando on the lounge menu at Adana.