A restaurant is in many ways like a party: You need atmosphere, music, good food and choice of drink. At the recently opened Hinoki & the Bird in Century City, the party is in full swing: entrance jammed, bar, dining room and patios full, and the cocktails and wine flowing.
Begin with a cocktail from cocktail mastermind Sam Ross. The pitch-perfect, not-too-sweet daiquiri in a compact coupe is a good start. Second that with some bubbles from Louis Roederer to accompany the oysters -- a rotating list of small purveyors guarantees briny freshness -- and then delve into the wine list put together by wine consultant Mark Mendoza (Rivera downtown is his current gig).
A longtime colleague and collaborator of chef-owner David Myers and executive chef Kuniko Yagi at Sona ("I have big love for Kuniko, we worked side-by-side for seven years," says Mendoza), the sommelier has put together a selection of "wines from everywhere," he says. What's in the cellar? Turn the page.
"It's global," is how Mendoza describes the 6,000-bottle cellar that totals 1,000 labels of carefully edited selections -- approximately 3,000 of which were acquired from the cellar of Sona, Myers' late, lamented La Cienega restaurant. Only 150 wines are on the menu now. Expect that to change, grow and evolve over time, Mendoza says, and even more so when lunch service begins.
Of note is the bottle program of 40 wines under $60, a nod to L.A.'s restaurant economics, Mendoza says. However, the highest end (wines well over $1,000 per bottle) is well represented by several cult Napa Cabernets (Colgin, Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle stand out) and vintage French Burgundy and Bordeaux selections (name-checked: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Château Margaux).
For everyday pairing with Hinoki & the Bird's creative Japanese and Asian-style dishes, Mendoza has lasered in on dryer, crisper whites with bright acidity from Alsace, Austria and Germany coupled with the reds. He offers some suggestions: To go with the Hinoki-scented black cod (the restaurant's signature dish), he recommends a white Burgundy like the 2008 Domaine Rollin Pernand-Vergelesses or the 2011 Cave Yves Cuilleron Viognier. A full-bodied California Syrah, such as the 2009 Hitching Post Big Circle Syrah, can handle the spices of the marinated short rib.
Yagi has a personal selection: her favorite Japanese sake, which is the Wakatake "Demon Slayer" Junmai sake, an easy-drinking sake if there ever was one. Myers promises more Japanese sakes in the future on a list that is already a fair balance of Old and New World wines.
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