Necco ~ Root
The Japanese restaurant celebrating root vegetables, and an interview with it's founder.
At the moment I have a sweet obsession with Japanese folkiness. Vintage indigo kimonos and farmer pants, earthy Japanese ceramics, and all the brilliant animation films by Miyazaki. I visited Japan at the tender age of eighteen, and was able to glimpse slices of that charming, Japanese, country quality. If I were to visit now with mature eyes, I would make a point to visit the Japanese forests and villages by the mountains. I imagine walking to little wood tea houses where I could wear a kimono and sink into the simple aesthetic of the land.
Until that day comes, I am happy to visit Necco the cozy nest of restaurant that chef Kenji has opened in the heart of Westwood. Necco means root in Japanese and as he puts it, Necco’s values are rooted in the Japanese heart. It’s a celebration of the root vegetables and how we can be rooted into our environment through food. I learned about some delicious and healthy ingredients when visiting Necco. Ways in which to add tamari for a bit of flavor, and how to use koso and koji. Koso is an enzyme that exists naturally in raw foods. This enzyme helps us digest food and allow the nutrients to be absorbed in the blood stream. Koji is steamed rice that has been inoculate with koji spores. This amino acid is responsible for umami a rich, savory flavor that makes dishes so delicious. Kenji also uses Tensai Sugar in his fermented drinks. This unprocessed sugar from the North of japan has nutritional value and some probiotic qualities. He also uses lots of lotus root, daikon, carrots, ginger and other delicious root vegetables. They are good to eat in the Autumn and winter seasons so we can gain strength from their connection to the earth.
On our visit we made a delicious Kabocha squash dish which I am going to recreate for a Holiday dinner. He served the dip with lotus root and sweet potatoes chips.
Read below for an interview with charming chef Kenji and the easy to make recipe for the kabocha side dish.
1) What inspired you to open Necco?
~ I wanted make a new style Japanese restaurant which can be shared with everybody, both the health-conscious crowd and people who come for the flavors
2) What are the benefits of eating root vegetables? Like lotus and daikon?
~ due to their ability to absorb vitamins and minerals from the ground, root vegetables grown in rich soil are full of nutrients and are an excellent source of fiber. Many are high vitamins C,B and A and are antioxidants. They increase your exercise stamina!
3) What in the traditional Japanese culture inspires you?
~ traditional japanese food culture
4) What or where is your favorite meal?
~ Kabosu in Toluca Lake, which is my mentor’s restaurant. I learned a lot of thing from him and I continue to be inspired by him.
5) How often do you eat fermented foods with your meals?
~ twice a week
6) What is your favorite market in LA that sells Japanese ingredients?
7) Did you study the benefits of eating this way in Japan?
~ yes, both in japan and california
8) Do you have a motto or philosophy you live by?
~ everything needs balance
Recipe for Necco Kabocha Pumpkin Dip
Serves 2 ppl
kabocha squash 400g/approx 1 lb
maple syrup 2 tsp
veganaise 2 tbsp
mustard 1/2 tsp
raisins 2 tbsp
salt + pepper to taste
Steam the squash in an inch of water. When thoroughly soft and cooked through, mash in a bowl with the skin on. Add veganaise, maple syrup and mustard and combine thoroughly so the flavors meld. Add raisins and salt and pepper to taste – giving the contents another good mix. Can top with roasted pumkin seeds and serve the dip with chips, crackers or crudite. Can be served warm or make ahead and keep refriderated until ready