Where the Chefs Eat is an ongoing series in which we ask a local chef to give us his or her favorite spots for everyday or cheap dining options. This week we talk to Niki Nakayama, chef and owner of n/naka, for her top 5 picks.

Since opening n/naka two years ago, chef Niki Nakayama hasn't had much time to eat out. “It really has been much harder to get out and have a proper meal,” she says. “My days off consist mostly of resting and relaxing which naturally makes me gravitate towards comfort foods.” Here are five of Nakayama's favorite spots for the food she finds comforting.

5. Cook's County: “For always having a wonderful selection of seasonal vegetables and ingredients. The food always tastes incredibly fresh and well-seasoned.”

4. Mako Sushi: “This is a small sushi restaurant inside the Weller Court in Little Tokyo. The Sushi Chef has a great selection of fish and I appreciate his uncompromising stance toward quality and tradition.”

3. Salathai (in San Gabriel): “This is a restaurant near home and one of the best Thai restaurants in the area. The staff is super friendly and the food is always good. One of my favorite dishes is the shrimp and asparagus salad. It's dressed perfectly with just the right amount of acidity and sweetness and nothing gets lost. The food always tastes like it's coming from the hands of someone who just knows how to cook well.”

2. Sotto: “The food is here wonderful. It's always well executed and the flavors are clean. The chef prepares an amazing mackerel dish that I often crave and the pastas here are some of my favorites in town.”

1. Haiku Kitchen: “The owner, Carole Iida takes the traditional Japanese flavors and adds some very interesting Latin twists, creating unique yet, familiar tastes. The Japanese style tacos are amazing, as well as dishes like the Ponzu Picante Chicken Bowl which has caramelized onions, ponzu, jalapenos and cilantro, the flavors are fantastic!” 3653 E Foothill Blvd., Pasadena; 626-470-5415

See also:

5 Restaurant Picks From Red Medicine's Jordan Kahn

10 Restaurant Picks From Karen and Quinn Hatfield

The Where The Chefs Eat archives

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