Hinoki & the Bird is hidden in an interesting place, Century City. On the surface, the 176 acre Century City looks true to its name with modern sprawl, glittering mini-skyscrapers, vast avenues, and epic fountains.
Fans of the cinematic masterpiece, The Planet of the Apes will instantly recognize a yet undeveloped Century City from 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, in which a disease kills the world’s cats and dogs, leaving humans with no pets (an outcome I ponder often when evading the minefields of excrement on almost every green patch of Los Angeles grass).
With a median age of 46 it is one of the least diverse areas of the city (82.5% white, high income, well-educated population according to the 2000 Census). Driving and walking around the pristine and beautiful sidewalks past massive agencies and law firms, you can’t help but feel like you are a member of the 1%. Walking into the confusing entrance of Hinoki is like a step out of the Disney-like Mall city into a calming neo-Japanese garden. The design is some of the cleanest and best I’ve seen, as well as a fantastic use of horticulture on the patio. Hummingbirds and butterflies dart through the air as the sun peaks through. When it became too obtrusive the soundless white screen was unfurled over the open patio space with a hidden switch.
Everything here bears of the mark of a Japanophile, from the use of odd numbers, to the minimalism, smallness, and the use of organics.
David Myers is the Exec Chef and a well-known name in the L.A dining scene. Comme Ça is where I first experienced modern mixology for the first time, and was also the breeding ground for some of L.A’s top bartenders today.
I know I’ve said it before; it is pretty much the exact same crew of Latino’s working as the support staff in every single restaurant in L.A. Friends and co-workers immediately began greeting my guest and I as we took our seats.
I dined with networking guru, Italian wine cognoscenti, and social media aficionado with Joanie Karapatien. A frequent traveler to Italy, Joanie has an amazing palate as well as personal knowledge of winemakers, producers, regions. We were both delighted to find a few Italian gems on the list. Again, in superb blogger fashion I completely forgot what the name of the wine we drank was/is.
We started with the tuna tartar lemongrass salad. I want to say it had sage leaves as well, but I can’t quite recall (this dish wasn’t announced, simply placed, most likely because I was catching up with the expo guy). The plate ware and serving utensils were curated and delightful.
The tuna fresh, and the quality of the knife work on the fine brunoise dice (daikon radish?) was pleasing as well. The nori sheets where a safe accompaniment, but I didn’t really find them that useful, opting for spoonfuls rather than making rolls.
Next we had the chili crab toast, which was fantastic. I did feel like the presentation on this was kind of weak after the tuna tartar, but this was more than made up for by the excellent flavors.
The non-alcoholic cocktail options were extremely well thought out and conceived. Had we not been drinking wine, several of the options sounded intriguing and delicious. Across the way I spied a Cucumber Jade. Grapefruit, honey, lime juice, cucumber and mint.
The kale salad was the weakest of all the dishes. While the kale was fresh, crispy, and in Technicolor I felt that this dish did not have a huge draw. The larger kale pieces were also slightly hard to eat and required a great deal of chewing. The almonds were piquant, yet the pecorino I found misplaced for a Japanese influenced menu. I did really love the stoneware plate.
The Monkfish in yellow curry was fantastic and for me the best dish flavor wise. The fish perfectly cooked and moist with a beautiful interplay between the lightly spiced warm curry broth.
While appropriate flavor wise, I thought the heap of cilantro diminished the beauty of this dish. Our server suggested we get the grilled rice as a side, which took this dish to another level.
The Short Ribs were for me the best dish of the meal presentation wise. This version of Bossam was plated on beautiful wood atop delightful strings of multicolored vegetables, adorned with basil, cilantro leaves, and chili. I really enjoyed this plate, but I thought the short ribs were slightly tough, perhaps requiring slightly more cooking.
I’m not a dessert person, but at this point I’m almost positive we were pleasingly inebriated (at least I was) so we elected for the Devil’s Food Cake and a Mochi.
The presentations and flavors were minimal and balanced. Often times I find Mochi to be too gummy and lacking adequate filling and this was exactly the opposite. Hinoki has an extensive dessert list for lunch, very tastefully done.
Enjoyed this meal a great deal, though I found it to be visually uneven, with some dishes approaching a Michelin star level of presentation, some were entrenched in Thai street food level.
Given the environment of a higher class community I was on alert for all style and no substance (South Coast Plaza like), yet the cuisine was there to meet the style mark. Certainly this is one of the best restaurants in Century City, and was packed by the time we left several hours after we arrived.