3/21/2013 02:42:00 PM

Five Minutes With...Hinoki & the Bird's David Myers

It's not like casual dining is new to David Myers. Although he was the prince of haute cuisine for almost eight years at Sona, his French brasserie, Comme Ca - where the young and chic chat over classic cocktails, chilled oysters, roast chicken and moules frites - has been wildly successful since 2007. But his latest, Hinoki & the Bird, is even more of a culinary departure for the chef, where he combines his love of Asian cuisine and culture with the great ingredients we have here in L.A. It's only six weeks in and the small plates menu, cocktails and lively patio are getting rave reviews, so he's apparently on to something. Considering that Myers is "practically living" at the new restaurant, he found a few minutes to chat with us about his favorite dishes at Hinoki, where'd he'd be if he wasn't working and all that denim.

Where are you right now?
I'm at Hinoki & the Bird. I just walked through the kitchen, talked to the chef, and now I'm sitting on the patio, letting the sun hit my face. It's very nice for a few minutes.

What were you doing five minutes ago?
Brewing a cup of green tea, testing out some new tea options that were dropped of to us. Have to say, they're pretty good.

How are things going at Hinoki?
We're in our sixth week, and I think it's going pretty well. The team is doing a hell of a job. The reception so far has been positive, people really seem to be digging it.

From what we've read, heard and said, we agree. Why do you think people are so hooked?
It's a different type of cooking than what I've done before, so it's been an experiment in a way. The scent of the Silk Road but utilizing California ingredients. And this ambience, you really don't know where you are. You're here in Century City surrounded by these tall buildings, but there's this little oasis inside. It's great to see people really eating with gusto, and drinking and just having a blast. It makes it all seem, you know, that life is good.

Anything new at the restaurant?
Becasue we're going into spring, we're toying with some new dishes. We're still focusing on our opening menu, and I want to continue doing that for a little while. But we're starting to plan out for spring. I want to do some really fun sates, but again utilizing the impeccable product we have here. It's really fun spring/summer food. And we will definitely be adding lunch. The lunch menu is in development, and it will be great, once it gets warmer. I can't wait to open up that patio, the roof. That's my plan.

What dish are you crazy about right now at the restaurant?
I'm absolutely nuts for the skate and the lobster roll. I'm craving them constantly. I love our menu, though. I feel good eating it and healthy after eating it. But the lobster roll with spicy green curry and sweet lobster meat. It just rocks. And of course the skate wing, it 's just so simply done. And that sambal with it, it just really hits the spot right now. I don't think a day goes by that I'm not eating a kale or escarole salad, too. It just feels good.

The skate is crazy good. We had a huge meal at Hinoki recently, but loved that we didn't feel so full afterward.
That's what I'm loving. When I went to Vietnam to explore new dishes and new techniques, I had to eat in 12 or 15 restaurants, mostly street-side stands and stalls, a day. And not once I felt overwhelemed or gross. I felt so light and healthy even though I was so eating so much. That's what I was trying to capture here. In California there's already a lightness and healthfulness to our food, but I wanted to add those little hints and exotic scents into the ingredients here. That's what I think makes it so fun.

By the way, why so much denim?
Levis love us. No, I'm kidding. But whether it's the Levis our staff wears, or the patchwork quilts, there's this artisinal curated feel to it. I experienced it in Japan, and I just love it. Like the Japanese are nuts about denim, I'm talking crazy. They have salvaged and repurposed denim everywhere. I wanted to bring that in. I also think it brings in a more casual air. I'm sure people thought it was going to be like Sona, and that's not at all what I was going for. And jeans to me are very casual.

What was the last thing you ate today?
I was trying these new eggs we got form Vital Farms. I cooked it onsen-style, cooked at a low temperature, so when you crack it open it comes out perfectly cooked, The white part, the protein, is very lightly gelled around the yolk, and the yolk is between firm and jammy. Just sprinkled it with some Okinawan sea salt.

Anything you're craving right now?
I would go crazy for an iced cold Yebisu beer and yakitori grilled chicken from Yakitoriya on Sawtelle right now.

If you weren't working, where would you go?
Straight to LAX and get on plane and head back to Asia. I think I'd roll the dice on where, but I think Bangkok sounds like a great place right now. Probably to try some curries and all that. What I love about Asia is that it's new cooking for me. I grew up using the French technique, so seeing how to cook in new ways is so exciting. And weaving it in to our food is so great. Plus, it's all drinking food.

Speaking of...what's your favorite drink at Hinoki?
Depends on the night, but a great cold beer is amazing with this food. You have to start with a cocktail for sure. I'm really torn between the white negroni and all of our Japanese whiskey-based cocktails. The Harajuku is pretty fantastic.


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