When Hinoki and the Bird opened, Kuniko Yagi perhaps didn't get as much attention as she deserved. While she's always been the executive chef of the restaurant, David Myers had the star power and name recognition, and most of us in the media focused on Myers' vision for the restaurant.
Myers and Yagi have a compelling story between them, one that began when Myers found Yagi working in a noodle shop and hired her to work at Sona, where she worked her way up from dishwasher to chef de cuisine. From there, Yagi went to Comme Ça, before heading to Hinoki and the Bird as executive chef. When Myers left the restaurant group earlier this year, Yagi took on even more responsibility, now serving as both the hands-on chef and the face of the restaurant.
We wondered what this emerging culinary talent likes to eat on her (limited) days off. From juice bars to shaved ice to high end sushi, here are her ten picks.
10. Moon Juice
“Moon Juice in Venice for cold press juice. My favorite is their cilantro celery punch!”
“I love their Soboro rice. It’s a starchy, Japanese-style white steamed rice topped with ground beef cooked in soy sauce, mirin and chicken stock. I usually get two bowls to-go, and eat them at home when I’m very busy. It’s a very traditional way of making sticky rice in Japan, and Yakitoriya does it best.”
“I love ice cream, and Scoops is my favorite. Their ice cream is very loose and light, more like an ice milk. My favorite flavor is Brown Brown Bread (they put bread in their ice cream) in a cup, no toppings.”
7. Blockheads Shavery
“While this isn’t the most traditional Japanese shavery, it’s definitely a modernized version of one. My favorite flavor is coffee.”
6. Café Gratitude
“I’m not a vegan but I love their food. I live nearby and usually go there on my own and get the Pure Salad, which is a marinated kale salad with sesame-wasabi and garlic-tahini dressing, avocado, sea palm, nori, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, basil and green onions topped with teriyaki almonds and I add on their house-made kimchee.”
5. Nong La Café
“It’s a Vietnamese noodle shop that serves a very L.A. style of pho, light and perfectly flavored. My go-to is the Bun Bo Hue soup, which is a lemongrass spicy beef soup with pho noodles, pork patty and beef shank, topped with white onions, green onions and cilantro. They also have really good bahn mi.”
4. Night + Market
“I love everything on the menu from top to bottom, hands down.”
“The pizza and pasta are of course great, but their antipasti is the best I’ve ever had.”
“Their food is simple in a difficult way. A lot of chefs want to add more ingredients to a dish, but they manage the minimalism super well.”
1. Hiko Sushi
“Chef Hiko San is so calm and down to earth, but when you talk to him, he has a solid idea of what he's looking for in ingredients, he has great palette. Every time I go I just let him serve me whatever he wants.”