Yamashiro – A Mountain Palace
For a total experience, try Yamashiro; minutes away but worlds apart, a “Mountain Palace,” sitting on a hill 300 feet above Los Angeles, overlooking a view of Hollywood and beyond to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a replica of one of the most beautiful palaces in Japan, located in Kyoto. Hundreds of craftsmen were imported from the Orient for the purpose of carving out this masterpiece in detail. And if you want to “romance the stone,” you can do it at their 600 year old Pagoda overlooking eight acres of sculptured gardens.
The palace has many terraces, along with a sophisticated leather couched cocktail area; even a booth-only room, plus a “Koi” fish pond in the gorgeous courtyard where many events (especially weddings) take place. And as a bit of trivia, each one of these famous fish have individual names, and why not, they cost over $1000 a piece.
For over three decades, guests have enjoyed Yamashiro’s gracious Japanese ambiance with its traditional menu. And it's even more exciting with Executive Chef Jason Parks' infusion of classic Asian dishes and New World flavors. Our dinner began with a glass of Merlot and a seven piece spectacular Sushi selection.
We followed with Rock Lobster, combined with Shiitake mushrooms and asparagus in a citrus mayonnaise. Other shared items were the famous Yamashiro crab cakes; also Curry coconut shrimp, together with pineapple, mango, and lemongrass salsa.
Our entrees were Miso Salmon, with roasted asparagus, preserved lemon-mashed potatoes, salmon roe, and fried capers. The second entrée was the Yamashiro Grilled Seafood, with lobster, Mahi Mahi, Calamari steak, shrimp, and scallops. The food was magnificent!
However, steak lovers don't have to give up their Kobe New York or Filet Mignons, and if you haven't had Kurobuta Pork Chops it is on the menu along with Lamb Chops, Asian BBQ, baby Back Ribs, and Chicken. The great tasting fish featured is Sea Bass, glazed Black Cod and sesame crusted Ahi Tuna. Everything offered is embellished with wonderful sides to complement the flavors.
Dessert choices were wonderful gooey chocolate concoctions, such as my Pistachio and plum Profiteroles, (like small eclairs) glazed and stuffed with ice cream, poached plums and pistachio nuts.
While tourists from all over the world have put the restaurant on their list as a place to go, many “locals” are oblivious to the fantastic history connected with its rare magnificence. This legendary castle started out as a private home in 1913; went on to become the club of the “400” in the late 1920’s, a hangout for the rich and famous during the “Golden Age of Hollywood.” And like the rest of the country Hollywood suffered with the Great Depression. But Yamashiro remained open, and anyone willing to pay a quarter could tour the Japanese gardens. Rumor has it that during those tragic years, beautiful starving actresses hired themselves out at Yamashiro for an evening of dining.
At the outbreak of World War II, anti-Japanese sentiment spread rapidly throughout the country and post Pearl Harbor paranoia mistakenly rumored that Yamashiro was a signal tower for the Japanese. Vandals destroyed the property, covering the carved woods with paint, and stripping much of the palace. In 1948 Thomas O. Glover purchased the place in unrecognizable disrepair. He wanted to develop a hotel-apartment, but during renovations, discovered the treasure of ornate woodwork and silk wallpaper hidden under layers of black paint. He realized that this was too important to destroy, so it became over a 20 year project of restoration.
Hollywood made many films here, such as I Spy, Route 66, Perry Mason, My Three Sons, and Sayonara, starring Marlon Brando. Jerry Dunphy, Richard Pryor and Pernell Roberts once had apartments on the premises. And the site is often used for Hollywood’s premiere, corporate and wrap parties, such as Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour, Third Rock from the Sun, plus a bunch of commercial “shoots.”
Among popular guests are Dolly Parton, Mel Gibson, Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Penny Marshall, Danny Glover, Brad Pitt, Joe Pesci, Johnny Depp, Fay Dunaway, Anjelica Houston, and I guess you get the picture. So go for it! If you take an out-of-towner, they will never forget you. 1999 N. Sycamore Ave., Hollywood; (323)466-5125. Valet parking, major credit cards accepted. Terrific food reasonably priced for this magnificence. For more information, visit www.yamashirorestaurant.com