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Miso mochi rice cream
A Tree Grows in Century Cityby Lesley Balla | Photo: Christie Hemm | Angeleno magazine | April 25, 2013
Not only is chef David Myers’ new restaurant, Hinoki & the Bird, well hidden, but the door itself is so feng shui, we couldn’t even find it on our first visit. But one step inside the space located on the ground floor of Century City’s luxury condominium building aptly named The Century, and we encountered the sort of buzz generated by the busiest streets in town.
And that’s what you get at a David Myers establishment. He’s one of the most driven restaurateurs here in town, where he ran Sona, one of the more memorable fine-dining rooms from 2002 to 2010. He’s also opened two contemporary French brasseries (Comme Ça in West Hollywood and The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas); a pizzeria (Ortica near the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa); and two spots in Japan (a patissery called Sola by David Myers and David Myers Cafe).
His latest restaurant is the perfect amalgam of the time he spent in kitchens learning from top French toques like Daniel Boulud, his travels through Asia or the Santa Monica Farmers Market searching for the freshest and most interesting ingredients, and his busy nights feeding electric L.A. diners. But this space and menu feels more personal and brings out both his laid-back surfer persona and his instincts as a haute chef.
Although it’s equidistant from Fox Studios and CAA, Hinoki & the Bird still feels rather clandestine. But it has also quickly become its own destination. On any given night there’s a packed house grooving to the indie electronic soundtrack and pushing plates across the table so everyone can get a bite of chili crab toast, salt and pepper-marinated calamari or beautiful Bloomsdale spinach with miso-cured goat cheese. There are condo dwellers eating side by side with fans of Myers and Top Chef (Chef de Cuisine Kuniko Yagi, who’s practically running the show, made quite an impression on season 10).
The chic and comfortable space was designed by Milo Garcia’s Mai Studio, the same firm that devised Gjelina on Abbot Kinney. “Refined rustic” is the best way to describe the dining room interiors, which are welcoming when the sun shines through the wood beams on the spacious patio. After dusk, the glow of the open kitchen warms the dining room. In a nod to the ancient Japanese tradition of indigo textile dyeing and printing, the space is filled with blue denim, from the quilted coverings on the banquettes to the shirts the staff wears.
Myers’ menu has one of the more exciting lineups of dishes in town right now. While he practiced a refined Japanese and French aesthetic at Sona, it’s subtler and dishes are more approachable here. You’ll want to try everything; my friends and I were hard-pressed to show some restraint. You can have any of the larger dishes as an entrée or share them among the group. A few dishes per person go a long way.
The restaurant is named after a Japanese cypress tree known for its lemon scent and healing properties. To experience it firsthand, order the black cod that comes to the table topped with a burning sheet of hinoki wood. The smoke trailing behind the server fills the room with its earthy aroma. The fish itself is quite delicious, silky and paired with sweet potatoes, pistachios and mushrooms. The flavors are clean, balanced and completely fulfilling.
We love Myers’ take on everyday food, or food he says he just “wants to eat with a beer.” No doubt he means any of the “fun bites” on the menu, like the lobster roll with fresh lobster meat lightly dressed, stuffed inside a charcoal-blackened roll with green curry and thai basil. The contrast is just lovely. Or the chili crab toast, a spicy messy mound of Dungeness crab atop crisp bread. It sounds so simple, but it’s a unique take on the spicy tuna atop crispy rice dishes you see at almost every sushi restaurant around town.
I’m absolutely crazy about the sambal skate wing. Splayed out on the bone, every strip of meat comes off with a rush of heat from the sambal coating. It’s so unbelievably light and moist that it practically melts with every bite. You don’t really need the housemade roasted chili dipping sauce served with it, but it’s great for an extra hit of heat and acid. If he bottled that sauce, I’d be the first to stock up.
Desserts offer an even more dramatic spin on familiar favorites. There’s black sesame mochi ice cream with lemon and hibiscus or fluffy little matcha green tea doughnut holes. Just add a pot of tea to the order.
As he did with Sona, Myers once again sets a tone for the chef’s mantra of today based on the idea of creating the type of place where the chef himself wants to dine. Myers says this is the way he eats at home, but this hidden gem just happens to be open to the public. So now it’s on everyone’s radar.
Hinoki & the Bird
10 Century Drive, L.A., 310.552.1200; hinokiandthebird.com
Dinner: Tue.-Sat., 5:30-10pm
What to Wear
Your darkest pair of indigo selvage denim
When to Go
Reservations are tight between 6 and 9:30pm, but the bar and communal tables are open for walk-ins. With a little patience, we got lucky on a packed Friday night.
What to Drink
The wine list was created by former Sona sommelier Mark Mendoza, and it’s a superb match for the unique spices and flavors on the menu. And don’t miss the cocktails, all designed by Sam Ross, who devised the original Comme Ça bar menu.