By Suzanne Parker

Hibino, in Long Island City, is the second location of the similarly named Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Japanese restaurant.

It specializes in house-made tofu and obanzai ryouri. Obanzai ryori is the traditional home-style cooking of Kyoto. It is made up of multiple small simple dishes with an emphasis on local seasonal ingredients (where have we heard that before?)

Although Hibino was only open less than two weeks, every table was filled on a recent Thursday evening. The hostess confided that Queens patrons, delighted by not having to make the schlep to Brooklyn anymore, were arriving in numbers. That, combined with the fact that there are only about 30 seats to be had, either at a long communal table or a row of closely spaced two-tops along one wall, meant that we endured a 45-minute wait.

When the four of us were finally seated around three sides of one end of the communal table, we discovered that the seats were backless metal stools, and there was no place for coats. When we tried to order tea, we were told that it was served in individual pots, and there were only two available at the moment. The third pot didn’t arrive until nearly the end of the meal. Although we made it clear from the outset we were sharing everything, we had to plead for serving implements, which consisted of one set of silverware wrapped in a paper napkin. Clean plates were never offered, even though many dishes were sampled.

The obanzai are the undisputed stars of the menu. These vary from day to day. Hotate and renkon, steamed scallops and lotus root slices served with a spicy miso sauce were sweet and salty, a little briny and a little nutty. Atsuage, thick cuts of fried homemade tofu arrived hidden under a mound of a cole slaw-like salad, lubricated with sesame dressing. Shrimp Toji Maki is described on the menu as “Spring Roll Kyoto style.” We could see little in common with a spring roll. It’s made of a clump of solid shrimp, wrapped in yuba (tofu skin) and fried. The wrapper is pliable and the filling is solid shrimp. Very good, but the only thing in common with a spring roll is the roll part.

Warm house-made tofu is charmingly served in a miniature glass creamer. This dish is mostly about its lovely silky texture, as the flavor is as blank slate-ish as any tofu. Happily, grated ginger and scallions and soy-dashi sauce are provided for flavor enhancement to taste. Still, we think a better way to enjoy the tofu is by ordering the beef kakuni.

Beef kakuni is offered either in appetizer or entrée-sized portions. This dish combines a braised hunk of beef short rib with a block of the house-made tofu. The sauce is thick, sweet and very beefy, being made from sweet soy broth and Tokyo scallion (bunching scallion, more like slender leeks). The tofu was the ideal vehicle for this luscious gravy. The texture of the beef was perfection — fork-tender (or chopstick as the case may be) — without the slightest stringiness.

The salads and sushi were the least memorable menu items. Tuna tataki, a platter of raw vegetables, avocado and slices of seared tuna sashimi was pretty to look at, but lacking in flavor. Seaweed salad was visually arresting with various shades of red and green seaweeds, but mostly tasted fishy. The Kyoto style Futomaki was a kitchen sink of a sushi roll, managing to include tuna, shrimp, eel, avocado, cucumber, tamago and tomiko all in one zaftig roll. Other sushi we sampled was run-of-the-mill except for uni, which had a pronounced bitter aftertaste, making us wary of finishing it.

The Bottom Line

Hibino LIC sets itself apart from the competition with its obonzai and homemade tofu. These toothsome tidbits are worthy of exploration. But if it’s creature comforts you crave, you’d do better to look elsewhere.

Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at

Hibino LIC

10-70 Jackson Avenue

Long Island City

(718) 392-5190

Price Range: Obanzai: $5, Appetizers: $6—12, Entrée: $14—20

Cuisine: Japanese, feature obanzai (Kyoto style small plates)

Setting: Small and spartan.

Service: A work in progress

Hours: Monday—Saturday 5:30 pm—10 pm, closed Sundays. Lunch coming soon.

Reservations: No

Alcohol: License pending

Parking: Street

Dress: casual

Children: Welcome

Music: No

Takeout: Yes

Credit cards: Yes (will not split bill between more than two credit cards)

Noise level: Acceptable, considering the close quarters

Handicap accessible: All on one level, but close quarters between tables.

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