Welcome to the family

At first glance Hinoki bears a notable family resemblance to her elegant older sister Miku Sushi, a few blocks up the Avenue. Both restaurants owned by K Dong feature excellent sushi, creative entrees, splurge-worthy cocktails and a solid sake list. But Hinoki quickly reveals herself as the downtown girl—a bubbly, social younger sister.

This izakaya (Japanese pub) sports an interior that feels lounge-y and primed for nightlife with club music playing and a dedicated space in front for a DJ. As you walk in, the glam backlit bar takes center stage, and giant sequined mosaic artwork adds a disco-ball effect. On the menu: plates designed for sharing, a spin on Asian tapas with dim sum in the mix, making this a go-to place for cocktails and bites as well as a full meal.

Mandarin sidecar: Courvoisier VSOP, Grand Marnier, blood orange puree, fresh lime squeeze and burned orange oil

When we went for dinner on a recent Saturday night, the staff—already serving a packed house—was tasked with an extra challenge. A thunderstorm hit right as we arrived, so all the patio tables had to be reseated. We were brought to our inside table promptly and observed the servers gliding around to accommodate everyone. Watching the well-coordinated team in action was a positive harbinger of what was to come.

Because the menu stars small plates and sushi, you can order piecemeal, and dishes will be brought out a few at a time for sharing. In short order we were sipping sake and beer, and diving into the yellowtail jalapeno—layers of the silver-skinned fish and hot peppers topped with a dollop of caviar, plated with yuzu sauce. A signature app with some wow factor, the Himalayan tuna with olive, avocado and truffles is served on a large block of pink salt; it’s delicious but needs to be eaten fairly quickly or it will absorb too much salt. For those who like uni (sea urchin), the uni foie gras toast affords an extra indulgence with a decadent smearing of foie gras to complement the uni’s unusual briny taste. We enjoyed the fragrant and tender “soup” dumplings, but the small dish I’m still craving is the nori tacos. Each order consists of two mini tacos nestled into a carved wooden tray. The nori seaweed casing is grilled and seasoned, so it’s tasty on its own; and the fillings we tried (toro caviar and Wagyu beef) were both excellent. I can picture a nori-taco happy hour in our future.

left: Tuna tartar; right: The spacious sleek bar welcomes customers.
left: Co-owners K Dong and Chef Steven Chen; right: Pork shrimp shumai and dumplings in broth

In addition to the apps, we sampled several signature entrées. Truffle rice hot pot with king crab is a creamy, rich comfort food—an Asian take on risotto laced with a subtle truffle flavor, not overdone. Very tasty miso black cod is marinated in sake and then grilled, plated in a miso sauce with a side of grilled fennel. To treat yourself to lobster without all the work, try the ginger-scallion lobster, which is already cracked and cut so you can easily fork out the claw and crab meat; it’s paired with tender bok choy. For sushi lovers, there’s an extensive menu that almost rivals the selection at Miku.

For his restaurant group, which also includes Kumo in Scarsdale, K has a dedicated team focused on sourcing the best quality fish from around the globe. That was evident in each piece of sushi we tried. The melt-in-your-mouth fish is topped with tiny garnishes that the chef selects such as truffle, gold leaf and caviar. At another meal here, a lunch outside, we tried the Geisha and Passion sushi rolls and would order both again.

The place was still buzzing with activity that Saturday night when we left around nine, passing the packed bar. And the party scene is about to get even more lively, as K is in the process of expanding Hinoki, taking over the space that housed the OGGI 5 clothing store. Along with the larger space, plans this fall call for black-out brunches, dim-sum brunches and regular DJ nights. Can Hinoki Karaoke be far behind?

HINOKI
363 Greenwich Avenue,
203-900-0011;
hinokigreenwich.com

clockwise from above: Cocktail yellowtail, Himalayan tuna and umazine salmon • Miso black cod • Pepper tuna salad
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