1999 N. Sycamore Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90068
Fri-Sat 5:30 pm - 11:00 pm
Sun-Thu 5:30 pm - 10:00 pm
Bar and Lounge Hours:
Mon-Fri 5:00 pm - 2:00 am
Sat-Sun 4:30 pm - 2:00 am
For those in Los Angeles for whom money is no object, and/or are learning how to impress a woman (or man), allow me to recommend Yamashiro for an unparalleled fine dining experience.
Yamashiro, "Mountain Palace" in Japanese, is a luxurious CalAsian/Japanese restaurant high above Hollywood Boulevard, with a view out of Architectural Digest - it is on all the Top 10 lists in LA for view and celebrity encounters. The restaurant itself is an exact replica of a palace in the Yamashiro mountains near Kyoto, Japan.
Driving up the steep narrow streets on final approach, would-be diners are suddenly treated at the top to the magnificent views of Hollywood, and downtown Los Angeles, stretching all the way to the Pacific Ocean on the west. Valets approach the car from all sides, and escort you to the exquisitely crafted wooden doors of the palace. Once inside, tell the maitre'd your reservation name (make sure you have one - walk-in guests won't get the same exclusive view-front tables!).
On the way to your table, you'll notice the wooden beams throughout, the pleasantly dim lighting, the candle-lit tables, all carefully crafted to provide you with a dining experience to remember. After seating, mull over your dinner selection while munching on pickled vegetables. The appetizers are wonderful, and why not start off your meal with sushi - after all, you are in a immersive Japanese atmosphere under the direction of head chef Masa Kurihara. Entrees include the Yamashiro Feast, $42 for miso soup, salad, lobster, beef filet medallions and crispy ginger chicken, Salmon in Puff Pastry - $24, Kahlua-Kiwi Chicken - $23, and Classic Tempura - $18. On a personal taste note, the $25 Shoyu Glazed Sea Bass could be the best dish I've ever had - I had to give it the coveted "moment of silence" approval. As the food settles, ponder the expansive dessert menu. The servers recommend the Mocha Crunch Cake - I cannot disagree. After dinner, be sure to wander around the Inner Courtyard, complete with a Japanese koi pond and running waterfalls. As the valets deliver your car from down the hill, take in the view of Los Angeles while walking through Japanese gardens and a 600 year old pagoda imported from Japan.
Maybe you too will come out wondering how an authentic Japanese castle ended up being a restaurant above the Hollywood Hills.
In 1911, the Bernheimer brothers desired to build a hilltop mansion above Hollywood Boulevard to house their collection of priceless Asian treasures. They brought in hundreds of craftsmen from the Orient to recreate an exact replica of the Yamashiro palace outside Kyoto. Work on the building was completed in 1914.
In its completed form, 300 steps led up the Hollywood hillside through landscaped Japanese gardens to the 10 room teak and cedar mansion, surrounding an inner court of rare Japanese plants and fish in a stone pond, which provided light and air to the surrounding rooms. Carved gold-lacquered wood rafters tipped with bronze dragons provided the roof structure. Expensive silks and antique tapestries laced the walls.
Having spent over $2 million in landscaping, the Yamashiro mansion boasted the foremost Japanese gardens in California - there were over 30,000 varieties of trees and shrubs, waterfalls, hundreds of goldfish, and a private zoo of exotic birds and monkeys.
In 1922, after one brother died, their extensive Asian collection - Buddhist and Satsuma art, rare jades, tapestries, and cloisonne chandeliers were auctioned off. Yamashiro became the headquarters for the exclusive "400 Club," where the Hollywood elite hung out during the Golden Age of Hollywood.
During the Great Depression, Yamashiro languished along with the rest of Hollywood and the nation, when it cost 25 cents to tour the gardens and to see the view of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. When World War II hit, anti-Japanese sentiment caused vandals to strip decorations and destroy the landscaping and gardens, spurred on by a rumor that Yamashiro was a signal tower for the Japanese. In the years during and immediately after the war, the unique Asian architecture was disguised, carved woods covered with paint, and the estate became a boys' military school.
After the war ended, the property was purchased by a builder who added a second story and converted the place to 15 apartment units. In 1948, Yamashiro was sold to Thomas O. Glover, who intended to demolish the building to develop a hotel and apartment complex. In the preparation to demolish, Glover discovered the ornate woodwork and silk wallpaper. Realizing the treasure he had uncovered, Glover decided to undertake a huge restoration project that continues even today.
Yamashiro's current status as restaurant and cocktail lounge began when Glover constructed a private bar in a back room of the palace for apartment residents. For a $1 membership fee, residents could bring friends to partake of the grand view over drinks. As it gained in popularity, the bar was extended room by room until it took up the entire east side of building. Guests began to request food, until one New Year's Eve, Glover's son Tom, who now owns and operates the restaurant, decided to serve hors d'oeuvres.
After several years of serving appetizers, Glover converted a room into a small dining room that accomodated 4 tables. The restaurant and accompanying banquet rooms now seat up to 500 guests.
Yamashiro has been used in a number of films as Japan, most famously in Sayonara with Marlon Brando, but also in TV shows such as I Spy, Route 66, Perry Mason, and My Three Sons. It has also been the site of wrap parties for Lethal Weapon 4 and Rush Hour.