About Town: Kuniko Yagi
Kuniko Yagi, Executive Chef of Hinoki & The Bird in Century City, hasn’t always spent her time in the kitchen. In fact, the Japan native and self-taught chef once held a job in finance. Yagi, who graduated from Ferris College in Tokyo, initially got started as a server in a Japanese noodle house in Los Angeles. There, a serendipitous meeting with a customer (who happened to be restauranteur and chef David Meyers), ultimately led to a position as chef de cuisine at former Los Angeles restaurant, Sona. From there, she went on to become Executive Chef of Comme Ça in West Hollywood before landing at Hinoki & The Bird early last year.
When she’s not at the restaurant, Yagi regularly visits the Santa Monica and Mar Vista farmers markets for fresh produce, and stays close to home in Venice. The talented chef reveals her top places to grab a coffee, shop for baby gifts, and unwind after preparing her last meal for the night.
By Jennie Nunn
TORTOISE GENERAL STORE This store specializes in Japanese products, and I like to pick up towels here. These towels are 100 percent cotton, and are very thin as opposed to fluffy, so they dry really fast. I use them at home in the kitchen all the time.
GRANADA MARKET This is one of my favorite grocery stores. I come here for tofu and soy milk. They are one of the few places that carries freshly made Meiji Tofu, which is one of my favorites.
LOST & FOUND This clothing shop has everything. It’s my special go-to spot for picking up baby gifts.
POT Chef Roy Choi is just like family, and I really enjoy what he’s doing here. It’s authentic food, and it’s a hip place to be. My usual order is: seaweed salad, uni rice bowl, and an Old School hot pot.
NIGHT + MARKET I usually order everything here. The server doesn’t even need to take notes. The food is just delicious, and it’s so spicy. I go here to clear my sinuses!
SUPERBA FOOD + BREAD Chef Jason Travi is a friend and the food here is great. I also love their coffee, and it’s the only place I know of that serves Heart coffee. The restaurant is really casual, so it’s easy to stop in and meet people here. Plus, I can bring my dog.
INTELLIGENTSIA COFFEE It’s a short walk from my house, so it’s easy for me to stop in and meet friends here. Plus, the coffee is just so good.
SANTA MONICA FARMERS MARKET When it comes to hostess gifts, I don’t really like getting very elaborate, and I’m not really meticulous about buying cards or wrapping paper. It’s pretty simple for me. I always like giving people something good to eat, so I’ll go to the farmers market and pick up a bunch of perfectly ripe fruit.
MOON JUICE I like the flavors of their juices and the quality of the ingredients. The staff has such great knowledge that it’s almost like going to the pharmacy. I usually just tell them how I’m feeling or what I’m in the mood for, and they always come up with the perfect mix for me.
RED MEDICINE We’re usually at the restaurant so late that I’m usually in bed at the end of the night, not out. But, when we don’t get off work too late, the cooks and I grab drinks and bites at the bar at Red Medicine.
Pictured: Kuniko Yagi
Photo by Dylan + Jeni