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Feb 7, 2014 11:39 AM

Hinoki & the Bird?

Looks like I'm going to Hinoki next week with some friends. We debated quite a bit about where to go, and we landed on this spot as the food seems pretty interesting. Just read a couple reviews on here and doesn't seem it was getting a ton of love though... Any recommendations on must order dishes? The lobster roll sounds pretty darn tempting and different. I love lobster. I love green curry...

Or do y'all think we should possibly hit a different spot? We don't go out for pricey meals like this too often. Had also considered checking out Picca and Chi Spacca. I've been to Chi Spacca, but have been wanting to go back to try one of those massive steaks.

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  1. It is very good and alot of fun. I would keep it if you've never been. Picca and CS are also both great. For some reason I am unaware of David Myer's places seem to get more detractors than other places of similar merit and price.
    Skate Wing
    Lobster Roll
    Miso Steak
    Fried Chicken
    Beef Tartare
    I thought the crudo were just OK
    Negroni menu is cool.

    Forgot how much I enjoyed it until I wrote that list.

    1. I visited Hinoki & the Bird pretty early on and didn't enjoy it very much, and I haven't been back. If I had to go again, I would stick to the cocktails and the items that are more Japanese in style. To me, they have a better grasp of the delicateness and subtleties of that cuisine. I would avoid anything that has a southeast asian slant. I think they really miss the boat on those items.

      1. The food seems interesting, but it isn't. The place is all flash, and not much substance.

        Well, let me not be overly harsh.

        Are there lots of well-dressed people with more money than sense? Yes.

        Are there a host of creative cocktails and a ban on "plebeian" drinks like Long Island Iced Teas? Yes.

        Does the food look good on the plate? Yes.

        Will you have an OK meal there? Yes.

        I mean, let's be honest, you're going to be paying about $75/per person without drinks most likely, so the bare minimum ought to be that you won't have food that is total shit, and Hinoki at least manages that.

        But is the food anything special on the LA dining scene? No.

        Is the execution first-rate? Not really, it's mostly gimmicks. The only stuff that really "works" are things that are pretty obvious like chili crab toast.

        The lobster roll is hugely disappointing. It looks much better than it tastes. The charcoal roll is far too dry for the medium, and beyond that it doesn't have an interesting enough combination of flavors to set it apart. If you've had the magnificent Son of a Gun version, you might cry after paying $19 for such a thing.

        Anyway, I would never tell anyone to go to Hinoki. I will never return unless someone else is paying for dinner, and they require me to go to close some kind of major business deal. But the place is quite good at pretending to be something it is not, which is a great restaurant. Maybe if you're an "ambiance over food" kind of person you would love it. But I'm the exact opposite. For $75/person, I can have food that is so good it gets me drunk without any alcohol involved.

        Funny that you bring up Chi Spacca. One of my favorite restaurants in LA, and one of the most underrated somehow. It is the exact opposite of Hinoki. No pomp and ceremony, no flash, no gimmicks. Just an insane amount of talent and labor poured meticulously into every dish on the menu. Everything is very complex in the way that hyper-precise simplicity is (think about how easy it is to see that 1 + 1 = 2, and then think about how difficult it is to PROVE that 1 + 1 = 2). The atmosphere is that of a small cafe, and they pipe in old-time jazz only. It's like my wet dream of a restaurant, though if you don't like understatement and prefer the "Hollywood Glam Lifestyle" you may hate the place.

        I would HIGHLY recommend you switch to Chi Spacca. I am not sure it's not the best restaurant in LA to be honest. I can't say enough good things about it. The only time I have even slightly been disappointed was when I went for the Bistecca Fiorentina actually. I just feel like the price point is off compared to everything else on the menu, but it's not a bad meal. Maybe it's just because you can't even find a lot of the other preparations anywhere else. For example, Chef Colby just added a pork loin cooked in milk to the menu. Where else can you get that in LA? His Foccacia de Recco is the epitome of great italian cooking; everyone should try it before the laud the pathetic version at the Factory Kitchen.

        I have not come across any other chef as obsessive as Chad Colby. I have never had anything at Chi Spacca that didn't blow my mind. I can't say that about any other restaurant, even my beloved Bäco Mercat.

        Also, I find the wine list is always perfectly curated. I never enjoy drinking wine nearly as much as at Chi Spacca. They somehow find the best of the best.

        Everything about Chi Spacca is spectacular, though at first glance it seems almost ordinary.

        It would be a complete disgrace to compare it to Hinoki, which is the exact opposite, a place trying to appear spectacular that is actually quite ordinary.

        That said, Chi Spacca isn't cheap. If you drink, you'll end up around $100/person, but the meal will be unforgettable.

        I wish I could recommend something, but everything is so good that you need to just go and experience it yourself based on your mood of the night. The Moorish Lamb Shoulder Chop is the most underrated piece of lamb in LA, and if you want chicken, the Chicken Diavola is maybe the best chicken in LA. But you could get the new veal rack, or the infamous tomahawk chop too. Get the foccacia de recco for sure, and make sure you get the platter of cured meats. Chad Colby does ALL of his own stuff, and has the only certified program for curing meats in house (a standard now enforced by LA county's health department).

        And don't miss the desserts either!

        23 Replies
        1. re: BacoMan

          Here we see that old adage about taste rear its homely little head once again. Nothing I had at Chi Spacca wowed me in the slightest (foccacia de recco, beef and bone marrow pie, cauliflower bagna cauda) except fot the banana crostada. I'd go to Animal any day of the week and twice on Sunday over Chi Spacca.

          1. re: Servorg

            The cuisine at Animal and at Chi Spacca have no relation.

            1. re: BacoMan

              Kinda of like Hinoki and Chi Spacca? And yet you pivoted from one to the other pretty adroitly.

              1. re: Servorg

                Do you read the posts you reply to?

                The original post specifically asked about Chi Spacca.

                1. re: BacoMan

                  I see Animal being as good an alternative to Hinoki as any other place I could think of, and Animal is known for it's bold flavors and meat centric dishes. So I threw it in for the fun of it and, as I said, I would recommend against Chi Spacca so Animal was my "counter programming" in this instance.

          2. re: BacoMan

            "how difficult it is to PROVE that 1 + 1 = 2"

            1+1 = 2 by definition of 2. No need to prove anything.

            1. re: OscarFox

              You might want to go study mathematics before you claim such things.

              1. re: BacoMan

                Well, I got my PhD in Math, with a thesis and some research in number theory. But maybe you know something I missed.

                1. re: OscarFox

                  You probably did not study rumpology.

            2. re: BacoMan

              I fear that I might a rip a fissure in the space-time continuum if I pronounce that I like both Hinoki & The Bird *and* Chi Spacca.

              And I do. Both. Quite a bit.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Crazier things have happened.

                It's possible I didn't order the right things, or just don't like the flavor profile. I don't know. Maybe it's just the price point, and the pretension.

                For me, food needs to be VERY damn good to justify that kind of price tag.

                I just ate a $7 chicken and rice from a truck that had a more enjoyable, and memorable flavor profile than anything I ate at Hinoki. My only really vivid memory is choking on the very dry charcoal roll of the lobster roll. It's not a pleasant memory to have associated with paying $75 for dinner...

                (I am sure I will be attacked mercilessly for brining the price into it. People here apparently all dine at Urasawa weekly, and n/naka on their "off days", so I guess this board is mostly made up of very wealthy people. I happen to love good food, and not be wealthy though.)

              2. re: BacoMan

                I guess Chef Colby ain't worried about the kosher krowd : >
                Soaking Pork in Milk is the only way pork could be 'more' treif!

                1. re: VenusCafe

                  The only thing a chef should be worried about is how successful a dish is.

                  1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                    No, a chef needs to be concerned with MANY things, and peoples' diets, (if not their religion) should be one.

                  2. re: VenusCafe

                    Why would he worry about a segment of the population who wouldn't step foot in his place to begin with?? Makes no sense to me....

                      1. re: VenusCafe

                        Probably for the same reason the "bacon of the month" club folks don't worry about the kosher contingent...not their target audience and never will be (unless something very unexpected turns the whole pig ban thing upside down).

                        1. re: Servorg

                          "(unless something very unexpected turns the whole pig ban thing upside down)."

                          Like: when Messiah comes?

                          "In the Messianic Era, when the true Divine nature of every creature will be openly revealed, the pig will stand vindicated as a kosher animal."


                          1. re: OscarFox

                            I would figure that the pig wouldn't be overly excited at the prospect of vindication as a "kosher" animal seeing as that just means more pork chops coming out of ye olde butcher shoppe...

                            1. re: Servorg

                              The pig would almost certainly rather stay banished, though it dont stop me!

                        2. re: VenusCafe

                          Because those who keep kosher would never step foot in his restaurant.....

                          That's like saying the sushi chefs should worry about pleasing people who won't eat raw fish.....makes no sense.

                        3. re: Dirtywextraolives

                          First of all, i was being playful with my remark, not completely serious, but some used my tongue in cheek to go in ridiculous directions to imply that dietary consideration is absurd. It is not.
                          Second, I was addressing "diet" which every chef needs to consider. Think how everyone goes out of their way to accommodate "gluten-free"~it's b/c they think it is good business/money.
                          Many restauranteurs rightfully consider 'non targeted audiences', believing that an inclusive policy addressing the broadest range of customers is just smart. They know many Jews eat pork, etc.,etc.
                          Not all embrace a broad policy,
                          some only consider the 1% worthy of targeting.
                          Third, even if i did not eat pork i would still go to restaurants that served it. That's a big DUH!
                          (but i'll never go to Father's Office or any place that is authoritarian about substitutions or reasonable dietary considerations. Dining out is about ME, not made up rules)

                          1. re: VenusCafe

                            You seem to be under the impression that people who keep kosher are doing it for dietary reasons. That is not the case.

                            And please forgive me for not being acutely aware that your tone in text was not intended to be taken seriously.

                            No matter how inclusive a chef tries to be, unless his entire establishment is in line with kosher requirements, kosher people are not going to be lining up at the door, no matter what. That includes more than just the meat being served.....

                    1. Thanks everyone for the heated replies. I'm still torn. ChiSpacca is off the table as they have no rezzies left for the night in question next week.

                      Funny that Animal was brought up, because although I didn't mention it, I've been thinking of it as well. I've eaten there quite a few times, and it's always been one of my fav restaurants in LA. I just called and managed to snag an early rez for next week. Now I just need to make a final decision.

                      Give Hinoki a try, or return to Animal for what I know will be a solid evening of delicious chow.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: brian j

                        It seems to me that your decision is between something known and good (Animal) and the unknown.

                        My question is what are you trying to get out of this meal and who are your friends?

                        Have they been to and enjoyed Animal?

                        Are you wanting to wow them?

                        Are they ok with going somewhere that turns out to be fine, but not particularly great just to try something new?

                        Personally, I'm all about new experiences, so in your shoes, knowing that my friends are ok with the unknown, I would probably go Hinoki.

                        On the other hand, I very rarely spend this amount of money on a meal so I would want it to be great. I know that Animal is wonderful, I don't know that about Hinoki. If money is less of an issue, this becomes more unimportant.

                        1. re: brian j

                          I think it's worth mentioning that if your friends aren't very CHOWish, Hinoki seems to fare better with the average diner than it does on this board as evidenced by its 4-stars on that other site, and its appearance on the best new restaurants in bon appetit magazine. Not sure why your list is so limited though... aren't there other places that you haven't tried that could make the cut?

                          1. re: andytseng

                            This is a good point. A lot of people don't give a shit about food as long as its "good enough". And Hinkoki is very glitzy, and Hollywood-ish.

                            So obviously if you have friends that are more style than substance, you could have a fun time there if you ignore the food.

                            I usually assume anyone posting on Chowhound is concerned enough with the food that "good enough" won't succeed in making a great night for them, but I try to make that assumption clear.

                          2. re: brian j

                            Have you been to Son of a Gun?

                            Is your area of eating limited to WeHo/Bev Hills/Century City?

                          3. One of my favorite restaurants west of La Cienega.

                            It's grown on me with each successive visit.

                            Favorite dishes incl. the chicken, cod, kale, yam and the grilled rice. I've been meaning to try their limited early-evening noodle menu, but never really find myself on that side of the town during that time of the day.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              "It's grown on me with each successive visit."

                              Agreed, shīfu!