Although Long Island City is seeing ongoing, rapid residential development — often to vocal criticism — the dining scene doesn’t always keep pace. Into the Japanese food void steps Hibino (10-70 Jackson Avenue, Queens, 718-392-5190), an offshoot of a bustling Cobble Hill restaurant, and a worthwhile destination even if you don’t live in one of the towering glass condos nearby.
Hibino, minimalist but bright and inviting, sits in a smallish space on Jackson Avenue, just down the block from stand-up spot The Creek and the Cave. Its name means “daily” in Japanese, and accordingly, there are ever-changing specials, which are posted on the restaurant’s blog each afternoon. The LIC outpost’s kitchen is helmed by chef Takeo Koyanagi, and it shares its menu with the original location.
Co-owners and chefs Hirohisa Hayashi and Masaru Fukuda’s cooking is informed by obanzai ryoori, traditional side dishes that are a specialty of Kyoto. These highly seasonal plates are referred to here as “Japanese tapas.” A sampling of the obanzai at Hibino LIC’s opening party included crispy, bright green panko-crusted asparagus; seared scallops; and a hearty kasu jiru, a soup made from sake lees, dashi, and miso that comes brimming with daikon radishes, potatoes, and carrots.
Also on Hibino’s menu is hamachi salad made with yellowtail sashimi, beef kakuni, which harmoniously pairs fresh house-made tofu with braised short ribs; and a buttery, miso-marinated salmon. There’s a wide and reasonably-priced selection of very fresh sushi, too. For something different, try the hako sushi, made with a technique pioneered in Osaka that uses a square box as a mold for the fish, which is generally cooked or cured. The resulting rectangular bites topped with salmon, eel, mackerel, or tuna are flavorful variations on the usual raw fish or oversized rolls.
Much of LIC’s Asian cuisine is fusion; Hibino brings some welcome traditionalism to the neighborhood with its nod to the historical city of Kyoto. The restaurant’s liquor license is currently pending, but expect a solid selection of sake and Japanese beer once it arrives.
Hibino is open for dinner nightly and will add lunch service soon.