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Martin Barrett
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Niki Nakayama masterclass

Niki Nakayama Masterclass Japanese Cooking Review

Japanese cuisine strikes a faultless balance between traditional Japanese cuisine and innovation. Bursting with flavor, creativity, and aesthetics, Japanese cuisine is an art form in its own right.

If you’ve been looking for new ways to elevate your culinary skills and branch into Japanese cooking, Masterclass offers its users a comprehensive course taught by Niki Nakayama, a Japanese-American chef, and owner of the Michelin-starred n/naka restaurant in Los Angeles. 

Before you take the plunge, we’ve reviewed the course ourselves, and we’re here to bring you our final verdict.

Whatever your questions, stick with us to learn the ins and outs of this impressive modern Italian cooking course and find out if this Niki Nakayama masterclass Japanese cooking review is right for you. 

Niki Nakayama Teaches Modern Japanese Cooking 

World-renowned chef and Michelin-starred restaurant owner Niki Nakayama has taken her expertise to Masterclass and is on a mission to teach budding Japanese chefs the essential skills, techniques, and recipes used in Japanese cooking. 

Her course ‘Niki Nakayama Teaches Modern Japanese Cooking’ is made up of 18 videos, which will take you just over four hours to watch.

In addition to the video content, you’ll also get access to a 48-page recipe book for inspiration! 

What Are The Lessons About? 

Like most Masterclass courses, lesson one is a short introduction to the course and your tutor, Niki Nakayama.

The final lesson is much the same and finishes with a few closing words from your tutor, and a summary of the things you’ve learned throughout the course. 

Your remaining 16 lessons are split into three categories: 

1: Learning Japanese Cuisine and redefining kaiseki cuisine 

2: Preparing Japanese food 

3: Recipes to create your own Kaiseki meal 

These lessons strike a good balance between cooking theory and some hands-on time in the kitchen.

We’ll show you which lessons fall into which category so you can get a clearer idea of how much time you’ll spend listening and how much time you’ll actually spend in the kitchen. 

Learning Japanese Cuisine and Kaiseki 

These theory-based lessons are: 

Lesson 2: Kaiseki Cooking 

Kaiseki cooking provides a gentle introduction to Kaiseki cooking with Niki Nakayama.

In this course, you’ll see a few examples of her own Kaiseki cooking and get a taste of the types of cuisine Niki cooks and what you’ll be learning in her course. 

Lesson 7: Balance in Kaiseki 

Lesson 7 is another theory-based course that gives learners an idea of how to strike a balance of flavors in Kaiseki food and specifically how Niki pays tribute to nature with her own food.

You’ll also learn more about how a historical lack of food in the region paved the way for small, intricate dishes in Japan. 

In these lessons, you’ll learn the fundamentals like how and where Kaiseki came from, how to balance flavors and traditional and modern cuisine, how to source ingredients from nature, and how to mimic nature with your own ingredients. 

*For clarification, Kaiseki is a type of Japanese cuisine that serves exclusively intricate dishes. 

Pantry Essentials, Japanese Culinary Tools, and Donabe 

These lessons are a bridge between theory and practice. 

Lesson 3: Japanese Pantry Essentials

In lesson three, you’ll learn more about which signature honor fresh ingredients you should be using, what they make, how to use them, how to store them to optimize freshness (and identify when they’ve spoiled), and more.

If you’re unfamiliar with these unique Japanese ingredients, lesson three will give you all the insight you need to start using them in your own cooking. 

Lesson 5: Japanese Culinary Tools 

In lesson five, Niki and her wife Carole will walk you through the most essential Japanese culinary tools and how to use them.

You’ll learn which Japanese knives you’ll use most often, which hand tools are essential, how different knives (like the usuba and deba) are different from each other, and how to care for your knives the right way. 

Lesson 16: Donabe – Japanese Rice Traditions 

Lesson sixteen focuses specifically on Donabe, an infamous Japanese rice pot. In this lesson, you’ll discover more about the most famous Japanese rice traditions and how you can season your own donut.

You’ll need to consult your workbook here, as Niki will introduce a variety of Japanese ingredients. If you’re planning to cook along to the video, you’ll need to source these ingredients first. 

Preparation Techniques 

To be the best Japanese cook you can be, you need to ace your preparation techniques. 

Lesson 4: Ichiban Dashi – Kombo and Bonito Stock 

Ichiban Dashi is one of the first recipes you’ll be introduced to. In lesson four, Niki shows you how to prepare the Ichiban dashi broth.

Although this only contains three ingredients (making it an easy introduction to modern middle eastern cooking), Niki takes the time to explain how different techniques can affect the outcome.

You’ll learn how to select the best kombu, where Ichiban dashi comes from, and what factors can influence your dish. 

Lesson 6: Rockfish – Whole Fish Preparation 

In lesson six, Niki shows you how to prepare a whole Rockfish from start to finish.

This is a little more complex than our previous recipe, but she offers sound advice on how to work with the fish, what knife skills you need, and what different flavors each part of the fish offers.

You’ll learn gutting and fileting, how to preserve flavor, and how to prepare without debt. 

Niki Nakayama masterclass in Japanese Cooking

Lesson 10: Tuna: Portions for Otsukuri and Yakimono 

In this preparation lesson, you’ll learn all about Tuna and its place in Japanese cuisine. You’ll learn how to start with the upper back of a tuna and how to break it down.

You’ll learn more about each cut, what role it plays, and safety tips. 


Now, it’s time for a more hands-on approach to Niki’s recipes! 

Lesson 8: Modern Rockfish Sashimi 

Lesson 9: Soup with Bone Broth 

Lesson 11: Traditional Tuna Sashimi 

Lesson 12: Grilled Tuna 

Lesson 13: Steamed Rockfish 

Lesson 14: Rockfish and Vegetable Tempura 

Lesson 15: Tuna Karaage 

In each recipe-focused lesson, you’ll learn things like: 

  • What knife techniques to use 
  • How to serve your dish
  • What other ingredients work well 
  • How to choose the right ingredients
  • Controlling heat levels 
  • Traditions for plating your food 
  • How to prepare vegetable garnishes 
  • Techniques to make intricate additions, such as preparing sashimi rosettes 

Is It Worth It? 

If you’re dedicated to learning all things about Japanese Kaiseki cuisine, this course offers an excellent introduction.

Niki Nakayama is a true professional, but she also does a fantastic job at breaking down difficult concepts and easing you into the practical lessons gently. 

Before you start cooking, you’ll learn everything you need to know about preparation, safety, Japanese ingredients, and more, which offer an invaluable cornerstone of knowledge. 

However, we did find some lessons a little tricky, if you are a beginner you can check out some of the other Masterclass Cooking Courses available.

Although you’ll have the workbook to help you, it can be difficult to find the right ingredients and even trickier to achieve the same finished product as Niki.

We’d advise buying your ingredients well ahead of time. 

Our advice? Follow Niki’s guidance on buying the right ingredients, and take your time watching the videos.

We found that watching one of the recipe videos before we attempted to cook alone helped us determine whether we had the right skills and ingredients or whether we needed to revisit a few more lessons beforehand. 

Final Thoughts

Overall: there aren’t many places on the web where you can learn to cook such intricate cuisine in such great detail from pro chefs.

We firmly believe that this course is one of the best Japanese cooking masterclasses on the web, and it’s well worth the investment if you’re crazy about cooking.

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