Hinoki & the Bird restaurant (Los Angeles)
Chef David Myers, recognized on the West Coast and Japan for a bevy of strong restaurants (Comme Ça in Las Vegas and Los Angeles and Tokyo's Sola), won a 'Food & Wine' "Best New Chef" title 10 years ago. That's why it's so uplifting to discover youthful energy driving his maturely refined dishes at Century City's Hinoki & the Bird. Hidden in an architectural high-rise within walking distance of the world's biggest talent agencies, the rustically urban eatery with a hinoki-lined interior employs suspendered barkeeps and waiters in chambray to lead you through a Cal-Japan traveler's swizzle of a menu. This is clearly an upscale dining hideaway for Hollywood agents (one at the bar sipped a smooth Japanese whiskey cocktail with plum wine and green apple juice), but we felt comfortable walking in off Avenue of the Stars.
The restaurant's namesake, paper-thin hinoki (cedar) sheaths, function as chief flavoring elements: Moist black cod slabs are smoked by their calming aroma after chefs ignite them. We jibed with the clean raw bar options, the chili crab toast, and charcoal lobster rolls seasoned with Thai basil and green curry. The fried Hama Hama oysters with black-garlic aioli were fresher than most raw seafood in Los Angeles, and the caramel pork belly was possibly richer than the patio's power players. What surprised us was dessert: delectable mochi "rice cream" dishes, one a black sesame ball of delicious frozen stickiness flavored with lemon and hibiscus for the flavor profile of an improved peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, and a matcha cake with sweet yuzu notes that powered us up. Myers, a fit surfer, has a light touch, but he brings substance and poetry to the dishes here, which is something every industry award-seeker ought to value.
More information: Hinoki & the Bird is located at 10 West Century Drive, Los Angeles [hinokiandthebird.com; 310-552-1200].