Best Saké in Los Angeles

Posted by bmountain | Posted in Restaurants | Posted on 26-10-2014

Next time you’re in LA looking for some good saké you could do far worse than Hinoki and the Bird.  Located in the Beverly Hills section of the city, Hinoki combines an eclectic range of small plates with an excellent choice of sakés to provide a memorable experience.  Our generous hosts at Hinoki were our clients and friends at RightSide.IMG_2803

A bit of research into the Executive Chef Kuniko Yagi yields some insight into the menu.  Ms. Yagi started her career in Japan in finance working at Gunmai Bank in Tokyo.  Realizing the business world was not for her she moved to LA to work as a server in a traditional Japanese noodle house.  She got her big break when Chef David Myers discovered her passion and brought her to Sona.  Following her promotion in 2007 to Chef de Cuisine, Ms. Yagi opened Comme Ça in Vegas, and SOLA and David Myers Café in Yokyo.  Subsequently Ms. Yagi toured top restaurants in Japan and returned to LA in January of 2013 as Executive Chef of Hinoki & the Bird.

At Hinoki we would have been perfectly fine sharing appetizers for the entire meal but the entrees were equally spectacular.  The small plate format was superb for a large group as we sampled just about everything on the menu.  The black cod was my personal favorite but the fried chicken ran a close second and the ribs earned an honorable mention.

The star of the evening though was the saké.  If you see Dassai on the menu that’s usually a good sign and Hinoki has both the Nigori and Daiginjo Dassai 50, and to be filed under “Total Splurge” the Dassai Beyond.  Cashing in at just north of $1,100 it’s clearly not an every day occasion but the Hinoki sommelier explained that Beyond rice is ground to 20% of it’s original size.  Compared with most normal daiginjo saké at 40% to 50%, Beyond sounds exceptional and it’s on my list for a special event.

Interestingly the last place I remember visiting with a saké that expensive was Roka Akor in Scottsdale Arizona.  After attempting to order two different bottles of saké and being subsequently informed after lengthy delays by the server that they were both out of stock, the server suggested Chou Tokusen Kuromatsu Shirojika Rokkounen Jyunmai Daiginjyou.  The saké was superb but I suspected trouble when it was presented in a velvet box with a very official looking seal and a glass cork.  My suspicions were confirmed to the tune of $900 and change for that bottle when the check arrived. Thanks for the memories Roka Akor and kudos to Hinoki for not trying to sneak that one in.

The saké of the evening for us was Kimurashiki Kiseki No Osake, Miracle Saké.  Miracle is one of the most interesting sakés I’ve had in a long time.  Served in narrow wine glasses, the bouquet was musty-sweet and potent, reminding me of a barnyard.  The taste was in contrast bright and lively, a little fruity.  We enjoyed multiple bottles of Miracle and I would order it again in a heartbeat.

Now for the mailbag.

Q:  Yama-san, can you mix saké with Jaegermeister?
Name withheld, Mumbai India

A:  Not that I’ve heard of but if there is you can probably count on the Radix Registry team to find it, and if you’re anywhere near them their tractor beam will pull you in and before you know it it will be time to get ready for your next morning’s meeting.  Unlike we mortals they seem to be impervious to alcohol or the need for sleep.  Approach with care.

Q:  Yama-san:  I just finished watching the Patriots decimate the Chicago Bears in football.  Are you celebrating?
J. Murphy, Pawtucket Boulevard, Lowell MA

A:  Absolutely, any true New Englander old enough to remember watching the ’85/’86 Fridge-led Bears annihilate the Pats in Superbowl XX has to smile a little then our home team beats Da Bears.  🙂


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