Hinoki & The Bird (Los Angeles, CA)

Hinoki & The Bird
10 Century Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Dining date: 7/12/13

hinoki exterior

Hinoki & The Bird was one of the most notable LA restaurant openings in the first half of the year. The restaurant represents David Myers’ first new foray into the city in a while, joining French brasserie Comme Ca. My lone experiences with Myers’ restaurants have been somewhat lackluster (Sona, Pizzeria Ortica), but I’ve heard generally positive reviews of Hinoki & The Bird. It’s been high on my list of restaurants to try for a some time, and a surprise birthday dinner is what finally brought me in.

The open kitchen and bar flank the main dining room, while a large patio provides additional seating. We were seated outside on the loud (energetic?), dark patio.

hinoki dining room1

hinoki kitchen

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Bistronomics Lucky 13 @ Breadbar (Century City, CA)

Bistronomics: Lucky 13
Breadbar
Westfield Century City
10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Century City, CA 90067
Dining date: 10/22/11

breadbar exterior

Lucky 13 is the latest “Bistronomics” pop-up from the team of Jet Tila (Wazuzu) and Alex Ageneau (formerly of The Royce). The fourth in their “Bistronomics” series, the core concept remains the same – creating upscale food in a casual environment for a reasonable price. Sounds simple enough, right?

I attended the second iteration of Bistronomics in April (“Play With Your Food”) and found that meal to be quite good. I missed out on the third, but found myself at this fourth “Bistronomics” at Breadbar Century City. This latest incarnation had a menu largely driven by Ageneau’s French background, with 11 a la carte dishes priced between $8 and $18.

We tried everything:

Foie gras torchon apple puree, toasted brioche
Marc Bredif, Vouvray, Chenin Blanc, Loire Valley, France 2009

foie gras torchon

We started with a generous portion of the foie gras torchon (though I think this was a double-portion).  It was velvety smooth with a rich, foie gras flavor – perfect for spreading on the crusty brioche. A classic dish well-done.

Lobster bisque water chestnuts, tarragon

lobster bisque

I’m familiar with water chestnuts in Chinese cuisine and was intrigued to see them here. The bisque exuded a strong lobster flavor while the water chestnuts provided just a slight crunch for texture. A welcome dish given the cold evening.

Scallops poached in beets, leek salad, crunchy black olives

scallops

Beautiful presentation here. The scallops were prepared in a unique way (poached with beets), giving them the pinkish hue. The leeks added some earthy body, while the crunchy black olives provided a slight crunch to each bite.

Grandma’s seafood gratin scallops, mussels, creamed leeks, button mushrooms, cream sauce
Domaine des Lauriers, Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France 2010

seafood gratin

This was supposedly the first dish Ageneau learned to make from his grandmother. Really comforting and homey (it screams ‘rustic French!’), it had a lot of the flavors of a clam/seafood chowder. The interior was creamy and rich (yet not overly so), while toasted breadcrumbs on top added a really nice textural element.

Cod brandade cuttlefish and chorizo ragu

cod brandade

crostini

Here we had a sort of yin and yang of light fishy brandade with a rich, meaty ragu (as well as crostini for sopping it up). Very different flavors, and I’m not sure they came together as intended.

Tree in the forest confit of salsify, crispy maitake mushrooms with garlic & herbs
Joseph Drouhin, Brouilly, Gamay, Beaujolais, France 2010

tree in a forest

salsify

The exterior of the salsify was charred, bringing out some of the inherent sweetness of the root vegetable. The maitake mushrooms were delicious, while the garlic and herb sauce rounded out all of the earthy flavors on the plate.

Oxtail banh mi oxtail ragu, melted brie, grapes, pickled cauliflower, baguette

oxtail banh mi

I was really looking forward to this one. The brie and grapes added more traditional French flavors to the already French-influenced banh mi. I liked the combination, though preferred more oxtail as the brie and grapes seemed to be the star (though, I think the most traditional banh mi are not as meat-centric as more “American” sandwiches).

Braised pork belly savoy cabbage, watermelon radish, pork/sesame consomme

pork belly

The pork belly here was relatively lean (which I liked), though still tender and flavorful. Still, it was a rich cut of meat and I think the cabbage was critical in cutting through some of that.

Flat iron steak crispy pee wee potatoes, shallot/whiskey marmalade
Marc Bredif, Chinon, Cabernet Franc, Loire Valley, France 2009

flatiron

Essentially, a simple meat-and-potatoes dish. Both the potatoes and steak were perfectly executed; however I thought the shallot/whiskey marmalade really elevated the dish, adding a savory sweetness to each bite. The baby purslane was a nice touch, too.

Pear clafoutis coffee cream

pear clafoutis

The cakey clafoutis was tasty, moist and mildly sweet. The same could’ve been said of the pears. A little bit of coffee flavor added some depth.

Chocolate ganache orange supreme, gingerbread, lemon basil

choc ganache

The ganache was pudding-like in consistency with a hearty chocolate flavor. Pretty tasty, while the gingerbread crumble added some crunchy texture. I really enjoyed the lemon basil, which added bursts of aromatic, savory flavors to pair with the chocolate.

This was another good meal. “Bistronomics” delivered upon its promise – the food was inventive and creative…interesting. Most importantly, I thought flavors were on point for the most part, with my favorites being the foie gras torchon, seafood gratin and flat iron steak.

Various reports have suggested that Tila and Ageneau will open something more permanent in LA. It seems that they are still playing around with the type of food at these pop-ups, but the core concept “Bistronomics” will surely be at the center.

Breadbar Japan Benefit Dinner (Los Angeles, CA)

Ibaraki, Japan Benefit Dinner
Breadbar Century City
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Dining date:  5/16/11

menu

This was one of my most anticipated meals in recent memory. Urasawa. Cimarusti. Manzke. Three of my favorite chefs in one place?! No way! Breadbar and Comme Ça teamed up to feature two benefit dinners with 100% of the proceeds going to Japan earthquake/tsunami aid. It was set up as a collaborative meal with 6 courses, each prepared by a different chef. The impressive lineup consisted of Noriyuki Sugie (Breadbar), Hiroyuki Urasawa (Urasawa), Michael Cimarusti (Providence) Walter Manzke (formerly Church & State, currently popping up), David Myers (Comme Ça) and pastry chef Ramon Perez (Sona). Appropriately, the menu was strongly Japanese-influenced.

Needless to say, I was super excited for this meal – great chefs, great cause. Joining me were Diana and Kristen, as well as Daniel (effing dericious), Christina (food, je t’aime) and Danny (Kung Food Panda).

First up was a selection of breads. For a place called Breadbar, I’ve never been impressed with the bread.

bread

Noriyuki Sugie: pumpernickel, aged lard, artichoke barigoule, caramelized eel, sansho pepper
NV Jean Philippe, “Brut, Blanquette de Limoux,” Languedoc, France

eel

artichoke

We started pretty strong here with a trio of bites. I first had the eel with pineapple – sweet and savory. The pumpernickel with aged lard really reminded me of Chinese sausage…which I thought was just really weird, in a good way. Lastly, the artichoke barigoule was cool and refreshing, in a way, with a light artichoke flavor.

Hiroyuki Urasawa: duo of tartar hokkaido scallop and marinated salmon roe, wasabi, shitake mushroom, toro, osetra caviar, takuan, scallion
Hananomai Sake “Katana” Junmai Ginjo, Japan

urasawa2

urasawa1

For a number of reasons, this was my most anticipated dish of the night. Hiro Urasawa never does events like this, so this was a most opportune time to try some of his food without dropping half a grand. The scallop/salmon roe combination was cool and had good flavor, though there was something in there with a mushy texture. I liked the toro/caviar combination even better – savory and salty, rich yet light, very good.

Michael Cimarusti: soymilk panna cotta, santa barbara sea urchin, geoduck clam and fresh wasabi
Epiphany 2009 Riesling Santa Barbara County, California

cimarusti1

cimarusti2

This was one of the most beautiful dishes I’ve seen in recent memory…and it tasted as good as it looked. The soymilk panna cotta was silky smooth with just the right amount of soy flavor. Both the uni and geoduck were cool and tasty, not fishy at all. Finally, some cucumber and Japanese puffed rice added some texture. One of the best overall plates I’ve had in a while.

Walter Manzke: santa barbara prawns, thai curry, spring pea
Jean-Marc Brocard, 2009 Petit Chablis, Burgundy, France

manzke1

manzke2

I’m a huge fan of Manzke and can’t wait until he finally opens a permanent restaurant. The prawn was so delicate here, cooked perfectly leaving a soft and supple piece of fish. A little bit of lemongrass was an excellent accompaniment to the shrimp, and I liked the creamy Thai curry as well.

David Myers: charcoal akage beef, maitake tempura, tsukemono
Fat Monk 2009 Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California

myers

This dish looked burnt when it came out. Like it was stuck in someone’s chimney for the duration of a cold winter.  This was on purpose, but I’m not sure I enjoyed the charcoal maitake tempura. Mushroom flavor was present, but it was really, really crispy and broke apart. The meat was good but not really anything special.

Ramon Perez: sakura cream, black okinawa sugar, alpine strawberry, cherry blossom-yogurt sorbet
Mizbasho Sparkling Sake “Pure,” Gunma, Japan

perez

Dessert was outstanding. I’m not really sure how this was done. The base was sort of a gelatin/custard hybrid. Sweet but not too sweet, with bright fresh fruit flavor and floral accents from the cherry blossoms.

mignardises: chocolates, marshmallows, green tea macarons

mignardises

These were pretty good. I liked the mini macarons best – good matcha tea flavor.

I found this to be a rather strong meal. I was really excited about this one, but tried to temper expectations knowing that one-night collaborative dinners such as this one are often not as strong as the lineup would suggest. I had no disappointments here, really. Good food, good company, and a good cause – you can’t beat that.

group shot