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Hinoki & the Bird's Kuniko Yagi hits New York for dumplings, old school steak and a lobster roll

April 26, 2013|By Betty Hallock

Kuniko Yagi is the chef at David Myers' new Century City restaurant, Hinoki & the Bird -- whose name evokes the same sense of celestial whimsy as her food. The stylish Asian-inflected menu includes bowls of green mussels in a coconut-curry broth with sausage and shaved raw cauliflower, lobster rolls whose buns are blackened with charcoal powder and cod scented with a thin sheet of burning Japanese cypress. 

The inspiration for the restaurant was the flight of a bird through Japan and Southeast Asia, says Yagi.

Yagi travels too, including trips to New York at least twice a year to visit new restaurants and stop in at old favorites. She said she most recently flew there for a weekend to attend a cooking demonstration and "wanted to be sure to check out some of the restaurants I had been reading about, but also visit as many of my regular spots as possible! I was able to get in a late night visit to Joe's Shanghai, early morning kouign amann from Dominique Ansel Bakery for breakfast and a round of oysters at the bar at Pearl Oyster. I’m hoping to squeeze some of the others in when I’m back in May."

Photos: Yagi's favorite New York food

She shared with the L.A. Times some of her favorite restaurants and bakeries; her New York recommendations are below: 

"Fresh tofu every day"

EN Japanese Brasserie

I did an internship here several years ago and really got inspired by some of their dishes. The chefs always did an incredible job balancing American flavors, by incorporating traditional Japanese cooking techniques. They make fresh tofu every day -- you have to call ahead to find out when it will be served. Also, what lots of people don’t know about this restaurant is that their its is prepared to order, which is hard to find in New York these days.

435 Hudson St., New York, (212) 647-9196,

Knock-out kouign amann

Dominique Ansel Bakery

The Dominique kouign amann [a flaky, buttery Breton pastry] is one of the best I’ve ever had.

189 Spring St., New York, (212) 219-2773,

Inspiring breads

Sullivan Street Bakery

This was one of the first bakeries I visited after moving to the United States. I was immediately inspired by their selection of breads and knew I wanted to eventually re-create my own versions. I always make sure to visit the bakery when I’m back in the city.

535 W. 47th St., New York, (212) 265-5580,

Worth the wait

Joe’s Shanghai

Whenever I visit Joe’s there’s always at least a 20-minute wait, but it’s worth it! I order the same thing every time I go -- the steamed pork soup dumplings and scallion pancakes.

9 Pell St., New York, (212) 233-8888,

Steak for locals

Peter Luger Steak House

Everything about the atmosphere at Peter Luger’s is worth the trip to Brooklyn. It’s the first old school steakhouse I ever visited. People often think of it as a tourist trap, but you’d be surprised how many New Yorkers you see when you dine there.

178 Broadway, Brooklyn, (718) 387-7400,

Paris, in New York


Pastis is another one of my favorite places to visit when I’m in New York. It was the first restaurant I visited in the U.S. that I actually felt as though I was back in Paris. If I lived in New York, I imagine it being the place I would go to try to “escape” the city without actually leaving it.

9 9th Ave., New York, (212) 929-4844,

A favorite lobster roll

Pearl Oyster Bar

I’ve eaten at Pearl Oyster Bar several times, and to this day, they still serve one of my favorite lobster rolls. I went right around the time we were planning the menu for Hinoki & the Bird, and it hit me -- I wanted us to do our own Hinoki version of the lobster roll. Their fluffy bun and simply prepared lobster is what keeps me going back whenever I can.

18 Cornelia St., New York, (212) 691-8211,

"I love pastrami"

Katz's Delicatessen 

I love pastrami and of course had to try the famous Katz’s when I first visited New York. I’m the kind of person that keeps going back for something I really like, and that's how I feel about the pastrami sandwich at Katz's. You always know what you’re going to get.

205 E. Houston St., New York, (212) 254-2246,


Photos: Yagi's favorite New York food

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