N/naka launches bento collaboration series with Minh Phan of Porridge + Puffs

Porridge + Puffs bento at n/naka
(Zen Sekizawa)

A new takeout meal to add to your wish list next month: n/naka chefs Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama have announced a regular guest chef series inspired by ekiben, bento boxes that are traditionally sold on trains and in train stations in Japan.

The plan is to use the train station theme to allow the acclaimed omakase restaurant in Palms — currently closed for dine-in service during the pandemic — to showcase different L.A. restaurants and neighborhoods, and potentially different regions of Japan, during a time when most people have refrained from traveling.

First up? A collaboration with Minh Phan of Porridge + Puffs. The $48 bento features eight seasonal dishes, including a fresh summer roll filled with shrimp tempura and crab salad and served with a numbing calamansi ponzu; sweet potato and kabocha salad with pickled mirepoix; calamari tempura with herb slaw and rose pickled onion; braised beef rice spaetzle with five-spice dashi and burnt onion; grilled pork meatball with leeks and lemongrass; smoked abalone porridge with nori oil; and tarragon gooseberry cake with passionfruit meringue.


Phan said the bento, which explores Vietnamese flavors with a modern Californian sensibility, is a reflection of her staff’s commitment to “seasonality and the time we are spending together, focusing on ingredients and techniques as well as important issues [such] as food waste and resilience.”

At Porridge + Puffs, Phan will also offer a $50 five-course dinner on Fridays and Saturday featuring ingredients made in collaboration with n/naka, including a house-fermented fish sauce made from leftover fish bones and green figs.

“We look up to chefs Niki and Carole because of their dedication to the craft we share, their discipline, their experience, and their ability to maintain and stand up to the pressures of excellence,” Phan said. “They’re also incredible human beings. Their achievements came with a lot of hard work and perseverance. This is what inspires us the most, especially in these difficult times.”

The Porridge + Puffs ekiben bento will be available for takeout every Tuesday in September, with orders placed through the restaurant’s reservation page on Tock. A portion of the proceeds of each bento will be donated to the Women’s Foundation of California.

n/naka, 3455 S. Overland Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 836-6252,

Porridge + Puffs, 2801 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 908-5313,