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Jun 9, 2013 07:11 PM

Hinoki & The Bird. Always good, never great.

I'd given David Myer's Sona around 4 tries - once by sharing plates with friends, the next 3 times were all with chef's tasting menu.

And none of those plates were bad. They were aways good, just never great. Which is how I felt about "The Bird". Snapper grapefruit and limeleaf. Quite pretty on the plate, and it was a little boring. When I think about it - comparing apple to oranges, but in this case I'm comparing raw fish dishes - that any of 10 course from Mori would have stand out more. Or as a better comparison - the crudo plate at Il Grano. Or The Vin Bar at Valentinos. A bit too subtle which can then border on the bland. And that's the problem I had with everything at Hinoki Bird.

Lime leaf Beef tartare, pickled Al jalapeno, parmigiano. My date said "It's better an Angelini." Sure it's not the same thing, but if you spin a classic, it should be as good. Actually, it should be ever better. Speaking of conventional or classic preparations - why change something unless it is as good or better? If you don't, it's just a disappointment.

Salt & pepper fried calamari. Best thing here and the most conventional.

Chili crab toast, spicy cucumber, coriander. Not bad, okay I tried it, didn't love it. What else do you have?

Miso clam chowder, lardon, celery leaf. On paper - this should be great. It had all the ingrediants to look like a str and-out, stellar dish, but it wasn't. The clam chowder at the A frame - clams in lemongrass broth with coconut milk, green curry and pancetta made me want to lick the bowl clean. Seasalt Fish Grill - an upscale fast food place - had better New England chowder (actually, their chowder - tried once - was pretty good. A few days later I had the New England clam chowder at Blue Plate Oysterette - not so good. Hinoki/Bird's was especially creamy, but just felt like a guilty pleasure without the pleasure. And I'm a bit of a sucker for heavy and rich (I'll make beef stroganoff in the summer), the flavors just didn't meld into a stronger sum.

Lobster roll, green curry, thai basil Pumpkin toast, miso jam, goat cheese. Again - where's the beef? Or rather, the lobster. My lunch date suggested that curry is not something that enhances the subtle taste of lobster. Not sure if this is the problem, but a lobster roll is hard to screw up. And this one was a little bland. The jet-black great was interesting, but only that. Is it a bread I would crave? No. Any breads off Joel Robuchon's bread cart were better. Or Guy Savoy's bread cart. Or anyone of a dozen restaurants I can think of (Melisse's bread tray, or the baguette at Maison Giraud). All kind of breads can make me near salivate when thinking of them. Not this black bread (which really was black, not a dark brown!) either. Interesting though. (Maybe they should bring in Noubar from Maison Giraud and see what he could do with making coal-black bread).

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  1. Four of my children a(including spouses) and friends ate at Hinoki this week.They were enthusiastic about the food, but not overwhelmed. They loved the skate.
    For a birthday celebration, a few days later, we went to AOC. This was a clear winner!! Foodie kids loved everything. service was great. We sat in the patio and were surrounded by 'stars", celestial and local. The new, AOC is well worth visiting. Great food and service.

    2 Replies
    1. re: maudies5

      The focus of AOC is more about flavor than Hinoki.
      Hinoki is more about subtlety, meaning Japanese-focused flavors.
      They will never be comparable from a flavor perspective.

      1. re: carter

        Japanese-focused flavors are always subtle? Is that the problem?

        I rank n/naka, Urasawa and Mori as some of my favorite restaurants? I wouldn't call them particularly subtle (nor would I call them over the top) when it comes to flavor potency.

    2. Bread - you care to judge ANY place by its bread?!
      If you never ate one more piece of bread in your life, you would be better off.
      Chowder - more dairy is not the answer, more flavor is.
      Get into your proteins and veggies, forget the bread.
      And lobster will ALWAYS be bland, regardless of accompaniments. That is its nature.

      7 Replies
      1. re: carter

        And lobster will ALWAYS be bland, regardless of accompaniments. That is its nature.
        Get thee to your nearest Newport Tan Cang and get the house special lobster. Never bland.

        1. re: carter

          Fresh lobster simply steamed is sweet and briny. I don't use lemon, I don't use ghee.

          Is that the problem with lobsters here, that they're bland with all that flash freezing or not, wrapped in wet newspaper or not? Is that why the lobster roll served at McDonalds across CT/RI/MA were better than the vast majority of lobster rolls I've had in L.A.?

          1. re: carter

            Definitely don't order lobster because it's bland. My standard for the Lobster Roll is Larsen's, Martha's Vineyard. Not bland, though I prefer Asian lobster preparations.

            Or carter, make a trek to Pearson's Port in September for the spiny's, through 'em on the grill. It'll blow your mind.

            All in all, agree on most these comments on H&B.

            1. re: revets2

              Larsens in Menemsha, yum!
              If you get a chance try the lobster roll at the Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven. They sell them on Fridays as a fundraiser. To go or they have tables in a hall. I think it's $15 for a lobster roll, bag of chips, and a soda. There's just a hair too much mayo, but not to the point of a big downgrade, and they have twice the lobster meat of most rolls.

              1. re: john gonzales

                We actually work that fundraiser sometimes and donated scales for dolling out the meat. For community vibe, it's the best and it is a solid roll.

                But I'm not getting in the way of those church ladies with the Hellmann's.

                Can't wait to get back in few weeks.

                1. re: revets2

                  Nice,. I'm jealous. I can just imagine getting off the ferry and heading straight to Net Result. They have some good delicious lobster bisque there. We buy it from the case in big bags and over the days do it augmented with copious amounts of fresh lobster. They also have some good smoked bluefish. On a lot of stops at Larsen's we get some of the local oysters and eat as many as we can of the Katamas and the Sweet Necks(?) while there. It's also hard to pass on the fried clams at Bite.
                  I've spent a ton of time on the Cape and Islands. Usually stay by Lambert's Cove on MV. Have you tried State Road?

                  1. re: john gonzales

                    Love State Road in West Tis. The Bite is the shit.

                    Afraid to try Connie & Ted's. Michael would totally get it, though. Even if the quality is great in LA, there's a magic to having it there. Maybe it's the air.

          2. I've been to HatB twice and both times have been very pleasantly surprised.

            First, I really like the way the restaurant smells. The hinoki has a wonderful scent that just sort of opens up the appetite.

            Second, my favorite dishes there -- the black cod and the kale salad -- are both flavorful, visually and on the palate. I could eat just those two dishes for an entire week and be very happy (and healthy I'd imagine).

            Perhaps your expectations for HatB were a bit off. It's never going to be about big, bold flavors that overwhelm the senses (Sona was never that way and Myers just isn't about in-your-face cooking).

            I'm sure one valid criticism of HatB is that in certain respects it elevates style over substance. But for me that's ok because the substance here is often so complex and endearing that when style does take center stage, you simply feel that the restaurant has taken your dining experience to a different plane.

            28 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              and now, i'm going to spend some serious time wrapping my head around "visually flavorful."

              1. re: linus

                Have you ever seen Jessica Alba in a cocktail dress?

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  uh huh. pretty girl. however, it's going to take some doing for me to describe her, or my taco salad, as "visually flavorful."
                  i'm not saying it's right or wrong, but that it's going to take some training and mental discipline to do so.

              2. re: ipsedixit

                Perhaps your expectations for HatB were a bit off.

                Well, when it comes down to it - it should be a viable choice when I'm going out for a fine-dining (Melisse, Providence, n/naka), or near fine-dining experience (Craft, Angelini Osteria, Osteria Mozza). Big flavors is a term a good friend mine (more or less, a world-renown chef) use to describe dish that pops out. Big and bold? That sounds like a hype for canned BBQ beans with "zesty" flavor or the such. No, I'm asking for something delicious. A culinary boner. A party in my mouth. Food magic. You know - something that you end up craving, that builds a beachhead in the part of your brain that sez "I want more of this!".

                But nothing at Hinoki + Da Bird makes that kind of magic. Style over substance? Okay, but...there are plenty of places that have style and intrigue with better food.

                But subtle? I've had the same response for some restaurants - but in retrospect, it's the response of an apologist who wanted to like the food more. You never willfully return to a restaurant because you enjoy "subtle".

                "Oh boy, I'm just jonesing for something subtle!"

       elevates style over substance. But for me that's ok because the substance here is often so complex and endearing that when style does take center stage, you simply feel that the restaurant has taken your dining experience to a different plane.

                If it doesn't rock my world, it's merely a plane that gives me an experience that I say, uneventfully - "been there, done that" - and won't return. Not on my own dime anyway.

                1. re: foodiemahoodie

                  Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

                  Not only did HatB give me a culinary boner, but I went home without one ...

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    For some reason, Hinoki & The Bird sounds to me like the name of a 1970s situation comedy.

                    1. re: Tripeler

                      More along the lines of a Disney animated movie...think of "Lilo & Stitch"

                      1. re: Tripeler

                        The 'AND' trend in recent L.A. restaurant nomenclature is officially becoming annoying... Well, to me at least:

                        Musso & Frank (OK, OK that's original in the OG way)
                        Church and State
                        Hinoki & the Bird
                        Hart and the Hunter
                        Night + Market
                        Connie & Ted's
                        Corazon y Miel
                        Tar & Roses
                        Post & Beam
                        Waterloo & City
                        Palate Food & Wine (OK that one is reasonable I suppose)

                        1. re: J.L.

                          Thumbs up!!. Great reality check, J.L.

                          1. re: maudies5

                            I can always count on you to "dot the i" AND "cross the t", ipse...

                            Is it true that there is actually a queue outside Blusoe's Bar & Que?

                            Total non-sequitur: Hey, got any of those homemade zongzi left?

                            1. re: J.L.

                              Only one sweet one left (red bean) from the last batch.

                              But I've got this tub of soaked rice calling my name ... Too bad I'm going out of town next week.

                          2. re: J.L.

                            Don't forget ...

                            - Milo and Olive
                            - Wood and Vine

                            And the most ridiculous of all ...

                            - Bludso's Bar & Que

                              1. re: PeterCC

                                McCormick & Schmick's
                                Smith & Wollensky

                              2. re: J.L.

                                Interesting observation.

                                Maybe it'll go to adding a third name - like a law firm.

                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                    Wait until they get to four names, something like Crusty, Spills, Mash, and Bun.

                                    1. re: PeterCC

                                      They'll sound like legal firms soon...

                                      1. re: J.L.

                                        How long till someone combines the trend of the "&" name with the other trend of public house, hall, school whathaveyou.

                                    1. re: Wayno

                                      Is that where Sanford and his sons ate?

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        No, it's where the Hatfields & McCoys feuded.

                                        Oh wait. That was at Hatfield's.

                                    2. re: J.L.

                                      I think all of these restaurant names would be better, or at least much more interesting sounding, if the "and" were changed to "or":

                                      Musso or Frank
                                      Church or State
                                      Hinoki or the Bird
                                      Hart or the Hunter
                                      Night or Market
                                      Connie or Ted's
                                      Corazon o Miel
                                      Tar or Roses
                                      Post or Beam
                                      Waterloo or City
                                      Palate Food or Wine
                                      Milo or Olive
                                      Fig or Olive
                                      Wood or Vine
                                      In or Out
                                      et cetera

                                        1. re: PeterCC

                                          I prefer these edits:

                                          Musso Frank
                                          Church of the State
                                          Hinoki gives the Bird
                                          Hart of the Hunter
                                          Night Market
                                          Connie likes Ted's
                                          Corazon y Miel
                                          Tar with Roses
                                          Post al Beam
                                          Waterloo under City
                                          Palate Food without Wine
                                          Milo is Olive
                                          Fig on Olive
                                          Wood y Vine
                                          In was Out

                                          1. re: PeterCC

                                            Conjunction junction, what's your function?

                                            I like "but"s... (and I cannot lie)

                                            1. re: J.L.

                                              J.L. = My Hero! Jack Sheldon and Sir Mix-A-Lot quoted in the same post!

                                1. Finally tried it. Would agree good, not great (although the fried chicken dish was really good). Thought the sauces on the skate and crab toast drowned out the fish. Pork with letus cup was very good. Very nice patio. Would go back but not a rush.