Dinner at Hinoki & The Bird (Los Angeles, CA)
One of the lovely dinners I’ve had while in Los Angeles was at Hinoki & The Bird. While the cuisine of meshing New American cuisine (specifically California cuisine) with Asian flavors isn’t a new thing, especially in this city, what really sticks out here is the location and the venue. The restaurant is found at the luxury condo tower The Century and the valet parking is right in front of the restaurant. (Don’t go to the parking lot since it’s a different rate.) The restaurant has gorgeous mid-century modern architecture and furnishes with the warm glow of the candles and lighting of the indoor space that flows to the partially open kitchen. When you walk out to the outdoor-meets-indoor dining area (this could never be done in NYC) that’s done mostly in wood with lots of lush greenery that feels romantic.
We started off with raw fish – sashimi tasting of five spoons and that particular evening’s fish was sea bass. The various spoons (or beautiful small bowls) of these sashimi showed the versatile flavors that works wonderfully with the fish. Nothing too overpowering the fish but enhanced in nuanced ways the flavors and textures of the fish ranging from savory-sweet like the bee pollen with wafer thin slices of red chiles, tangy and salty from the creme fraiche and caviar, to a little spiciness with wasabi. The rock fish tataki was a very good dish of firm, lean flesh fish that has an unexpected pairing of ham. The saltiness and slight smokiness of the ham worked wonders for flavor.
If there’s a savory dish that is all about creamy seduction, that would be the uni baguette. The snack sized, warm, just crisp baguette filled with creamy whipped ricotta cheese slightly sweetened with local honey, layered with sweet uni (sea urchin) and topped with ricotta salata it’s a dream to eat. My friend and I wish we had more of these sandwiches!
The bowl of agnolotti filled with ricotta in a shallow pool of vibrant green parsley sauce was delicious. The pasta was masterfully cooked to an al dente and just enough creamy ricotta. The element that really steals the show here is the super sweet and ripe cherry tomatoes that pile on top of the pasta. It really shows how incredible California produce is (and make me jealous of the fact there’s such great produce is readily available here).
The crispy black cod with miso and pickled daikon was very good. The flesh was moist and flaky and the skin was super crispy and left the scales on while it’s fried to create that extra crunchy texture without deterring the overall eating experience of the dish. The white miso added a slightly sweet-salty touch to the fish. The sweet daikon radish pickles were a perfect contrast to the dish.
The two types of ribs we had were the crispy boar ribs and grilled short rib. The former were wonderful to eat with the hands. My friend and I picked these up with our fingers and gnawed on these incredibly flavored and crispy ribs that still retained its moisture. The ribs were slathered with a chunky, minced garlic and chile paste sauce that vaguely tasted Vietnamese that was an addictive flavor to have with these ribs. Finger licking goodness there. The grilled short rib with tamarind was delicious too and it’s more about the unctuous luscious texture of the fork tender beef with the sweet-tart flavors of the tamarind sauce. The pickled vegetables on top of the short rib was a good idea to cut the richness of the dish.
We had sides of roasted potato loaded with with crème fraîche and fat cubes of crisped lardon and thin slices of red chiles and ginger scallion rice with fresh grapes. The roasted potato is as close to familiar American food as you can get and not necessarily a bad thing. The potato was roasted nicely that it’s soft and the rich toppings were predictably like able. The fried rice was a little unusual given the addition of fresh grapes. I am all for fresh fruit to foil a fatty cut of meat but not too sure what to make of this rice dish. I certainly don’t hate it but I don’t love it either.
We finished the meal (though we were very full at this point) with a dessert plate with small slices of chocolate cake, caramel tart with bee pollen and fried donut holes topped with caramel sauce. While the efforts were good, they were the weakest items eaten that evening. The donut holes were still a little doughy in the center. The caramel tart needed more salt to counteract the very sweet caramel filling. The chocolate cake was the better of the bunch but it wasn’t particularly exciting.
The savory dishes from the kitchen were definitely delicious, especially the cooked meat dishes since they have such bold flavors to pair with the rich meats. The front of the house staff were professional and friendly enough that our waiter checked in occasionally. This place is beautiful that it’s a good place for a date or even have a casual bite to eat with a few friends to catch up since it’s never too loud in here even at peak service.
To view more photos of this visit, please view the gallery below or CLICK HERE for the photo set: