Hinoki is opened by the brother of the guy behind Tatsuya, and having heard a number of rave reviews about it, I was expecting a certain standard of Japanese fare when I visited this casual Japanese diner one night for dinner with Lips. Despite the family association with the much lauded Tatsuya, I was surprised to find myself plainly unimpressed with Hinoki's fare. It's a far far cry from the awesomeness that is Tatsuya. Even if I'd taken into consideration the attractively low prices of Hinoki's bento sets, the food just wasn't up to par, both in execution and quality of ingredients. Personally, I'd rather spend a little more to have much better ala carte sushi at Tatsuya. I don't mean to make comparisons because both restaurants cater to very different customer bases, but I'd expected more finesse and skill from a place with a brotherly connection to Tatsuya.
That said, the stellar service standards is a common thread between Tatsuya and Hinoki. Our cups of green tea were refilled promptly and the waitresses were attentive and sweetly accommodating. A teensy weensy gripe though, was that they shut down the air-conditioning of our area after 9pm. It got a bit stuffy and warm, which was such a mood-killer for lingering over tea and dessert.
Lips and I wanted some girly-time so we both ditched our husbands. You know, that's the thing with my girlfriends. While the Hubs always joins in for meals with my guy friends (because he's like one of the boys anyways), it's not so when I have catch-up sessions with my gal pals. The Hubs' appearance at such meet-ups kind of "cramps our style". That's why i usually ditch the Hubs when I meet my girlfriends.
We both got the Hinoki Bento ($38++).
The Buta Kakuni, pork belly simmered in soy and dressed with shredded radish and mustard, was pretty pedestrian. Not bad but not great either.
The Tempura, was poorly done, evident from its appearance. The tempura batter was thick and heavy when it should have been airy and light.
The Gindara Teriyaki, while fleshy and generous, was also another average dish.
The Chawanmushi was layered thinly with a viscous, gel-like, tasteless substance. I didn't like the texture and found no ostensible use for the addition of it.
The Sashimi Mori and Aburi Sushi, was the area that differed most obviously from Tatsuya. The fish was sinewy and tough, when it should have been melt-in-your-mouth and sweet.
The Salad, despite its miserably sad look, was fortunately saved by the refreshingly tangy wafu dressing.
There was also the obligatory Miso Soup, White Rice and Fruits (watermelon and honeydew melon) to round off the bento set.
Hinoki Japanese Dining
22 Cross Street
#01-50 China Square Central
Tel: 6536 7746
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner