In the years since a now-legendary fire scorched the nascent restaurant in 2011, Aviary's rebirth is less like a phoenix rising and more like a time-lapse video of a meadow growing back after a burn—natural, abundant and diverse.
Start with the mildly spicy tempura green beans ($12) piled on a creamy green curry. Though simple, it's the perfect-sized snack for sharing pre-meal. After that, try the Japanese eggplant ($10), served with tomato miso, aji amarillo and dill. It's a delight of both flavor and texture, as the tiny rice pearls provide a pleasant crispness that pairs perfectly with the smoky, but not too soft, eggplant.
It might take some gentle encouragement from the server to order the hen of the woods ($20), served with corn, spaghetti squash, fennel and cherry ponzu, but take the recommendation. Also known as the maitake mushroom, it's crispy and feathery—a far cry from the sponginess of other varieties—with a sweet, full, nutty flavor that makes it a great precursor to the tender flat iron steak smoked over Douglas fir ($26), which is worth the 20 minutes it takes to prepare. The meat, cooked to perfection, came with potato puree, pickled daikon and a fluffy bone marrow mustard.
Pro tip: The clean, crisp hamachi crudo ($17), served with rhubarb, fava beans, coconut shavings, avocado sorbet and basil, is creamy and satisfying, and makes for a great palate-cleansing intermission.