We’d been hearing the buzz about Hinoki & The Bird in magazines, on TV, and just in general lately. We found an excuse to make the drive up to celebrate a friend’s birthday and to check out what the hype was all about.
The brainchild of David Myers, the man behind Comme Ca, in LA and Pizzeria Ortica in Costa Mesa, the restaurant is nestled in an office building, hidden from view. Once you drop your car off at valet, the indescript door opens to reveal a landing where you are introduced to the bustling dining room below as well as a pseudo open kitchen where you can view the chefs in action.
I was very pleased that we were seated on the patio. It reminded me of Gjelina’s patio which is always more pleasant than sitting in the dining room itself. After we settled at our table, it was time to order some cocktails.
The cocktail menu offers selections for all, and if you don’t see anything you like, their mixologist will be happy to create one for you according to your preferences. We ordered a total of 12 cocktails between us: Jungle Bird Quaffers ($14), Tommy’s #2 Quaffers ($14), Griffith Park Swizzles ($14), Seasonal Fix Swizzles ($14), Elijah Craig Manhattan ($15).
The menu is eclectic and there were many items we had our eyes on. Chili Crab Toast ($16) was very familiar to me reminiscent of the Singapore chili crab I grew up with, but this had only a hint of heat to it. Spicy cucumber and coriander provided an element of freshness to each bite.
Pumpkin Toast ($12) was on the other spectrum from the crab toast. The slightly sweet pumpkin combined with the salty sweet miso jam and creamy goat cheese appealed even to my non-sweet palate, although I didn’t care much for the goat cheese. I was glad there were only two little dots on top and not more.
I’m a big fan of Beef Tartare ($15) and this was incredible. The pickled jalapeno lent a spicy tartness to the perfectly seasoned beef. The quail egg yolk intensified the creamy aspect of the already rich flavors. A sprinkling of parmagiano cheese completed the dish with more saltiness. This was one of our favorites of the night.
The Lobster Roll (MP/on our night $19) was better on paper than in actuality. I didn’t like the denseness of the squid ink roll which took away from the subtle nuances of the crustacean. On its own, the lobster was perfectly luscious, delicately sweet even after being seasoned with green curry and Thai basil. I chose to omit the bread which overpowered the lobster and masked its flavors.
One of the specials of the night was a chilled egg custard topped with uni and baby corn ($14) and was my ultimate favorite. I could have eaten two bowls of this and called it a night. One of my friends and I were scraping the bottom of the bowl, making sure not to leave even a speck of this umami-filled treasure behind. This was a definite winner in my book!
Hinoki, a Japanese cypress tree shows itself in the signature dish, Hinoki Scented Black Cod ($26). A piece of the tree’s bark is lit and laid over a piece of seared black cod, allowing it to gently “smoke” and coat the fish as it arrives at the table. Beautifully flavored but overcooked, our server sent a new dish out to us and the second time, it was perfect! It is tender, melt-in-the-mouth and is exactly why black cod is also known as ‘butterfish’.
Sambal Skate Wing ($23) reminded me of a dish I grew up eating in southeast Asia. Instead of skate, stingray was used, a fish similar in look and texture to the skate. Served on a piece of banana leaf (they wrap the stingray in banana leaf in Asia) the fish is smothered in a spicy sambal paste and possessed hints of the fragrance of the banana leaf. The nuoc mam (fish sauce) dipping sauce was so enticing we couldn’t stop eating it, even using it with other items still left on the table.
The birthday boy ordered Drunken Duck Breast ($26) which was good but not fantastic. I would’ve liked more seasoning — the exterior of the meat was nicely flavored but didn’t extend all the way to the inside.
We also ordered some sides which were absolutely delicious! Shiitake ($11) mushrooms were allowed to shine on their own without much fussy fiddling. They were plump, meaty and so good even on their own.
Roasted Yam ($9) were little yams slit down the middle and filled with crispy lardon and creme fraiche. The lardon added saltiness to the natural sweetness of the yams and I’m glad my BFF ordered this because they were so good and so simple!!
Hinoki & The Bird is a fun place with a very cool menu. Everything was really good with a few stand-outs and the staff were awesome. Our server Raewyn was knowledgeable, friendly, and made sure we walked away absolutely happy with our experience. I highly recommend a vist!
Hinoki & The Bird
10 Century Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90067