There aren’t a lot of reasons to go to Century City (other than your job requiring you to be chained to your desk from 7am until the end of time). There are even fewer reasons to be in the area at night, but for a while Hinoki & the Bird was one of them. Several years ago, the Japanese-ish spot was worth driving out of your way for in this part of town. These days though, that’s no longer the case - Hinoki has aged out of must-visit restaurant status and turned into one of the city’s go-to places for a kind-of-cool business lunch.
Hinoki & the Bird is at the bottom of a giant, extremely fancy apartment building right in the middle of Century City, behind a very heavy door that will take you a few tries to figure out how to open. The space inside is modern and sleek, with a lot of wood panelling and a side patio that’s almost as big as the dining room itself. For a moment, you’ll think you’re in Venice, but then you’ll see the agent at the prime corner table shouting about how My Little Pony is going to be the next big tentpole franchise, it’s just that no one’s seen the potential yet, and you’ll remember what part of town you’re really in.
While its location means that Hinoki was always going to be a lawyer/agent/highly important business person HQ, these days a power lunch is really the only reason to visit. The food is occasionally more exciting than many of the business lunch-type restaurants in the area (a lobster roll with a charcoal black bun, duck noodles), but the menu is still heavy on salads, pieces of fish, and other things acceptable to eat in front of a client. Service is helpful and speedy, mostly because they know you only have an hour for lunch and/or need to get this meeting with your boss’s son’s friend who wants your job over and done with as quickly as possible.
Hinoki & the Bird feels cooler than almost anything else in the area, which, when you’re faced with another terrible steak salad, is reason enough to go. You can safely put the food in your mouth and know that it will taste fine, but there’s also nothing particularly exciting going on here. Unless you’re trying to pitch that My Little Pony tentpole.
The thing these guys are known for, mostly because the bun is black (due to charcoal, we think), and around these parts, that kind of thing is edgy. And it’s definitely tasty, with a slight curry flavor and not a lot of heaviness, but it’s also $22 for a tiny little roll. You’re charging lunch, so that doesn’t really matter anyway.
A light crudo with thinly sliced raw fish, a tangy sauce, and passionfruit. We aren’t into the passionfruit here, but the fish is fresh and tasty.
Did you really think a place like this could not have a kale salad? This is a good one, with spiced nuts on top and a tangy dressing. Add on the chicken and you’ve automatically reached power lunch expert status.
You’ll see a lot of these going past, and for good reason. It’s simple - fried chicken with some slaw on a soft bun - but when you’ve been at the office since 5am transcribing depositions, you’re going to need to eat your feelings.
It’s a piece of fish. A boring piece of fish.