Remains of L.A.

Traces of L.A.'s past can still be found, in the kitsch of '50s diners and the decayed glamour of '40s hotspots… and sometimes the food is good, and there are nice people.

(1960) Yamashiro, Hollywood

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yamashirosignWent with David (my husband) and his mom Keren and his stepdad Jim to Yamashiro for his birthday (this was a while ago; I went back to school and have been remiss with my blogging). Yomoshiro is a shockingly beautiful Japanese-style building in the Hollywood Hills just above the Magic Castle. You drive up a sort of circular driveway and have to let the valets park your car, which I generally hate but it was fine. Below the building, across the driveway, are gardens you can walk through. Down a short path was a little pagoda with a huge statue of Buddha. It is somehow both sweetly lovely and magnificent at the same time.
-A number of connected rooms—a lobby, a bar, various eating areas—with painted panels, wood floors, paper lanterns, shoji screens on the ceiling, intricate chandeliers, all sorts of amazing woodwork and tiny details, all sort of a hodgepodge that came together in a wonderful way; what Keren called “very traditional Hollywood-Japanese.” There’s a stunning indoor garden and pond lined with tables, where we definitely would have wanted to eat if it weren’t for the patio. The patio is made of wood and windows; the walls are almost entirely windows looking out and down over all of Los Angeles. It is truly spectacular.

-We split a bunch of appetizers, all delicious, and then I got the chicken breast which had a green sauce that made me nervous, but turned out to be very good, and wild rice that was super yummy (it had some sort of flower on top; I couldn’t tell if I was supposed to eat it or not so decided not to) and asparagus in place of the French beans it usually came with. Everything I ate was fantastic.

-The waitress warned me about the step going down to patio, but I stumbled and almost fell anyway. Later, coming back from the ladies’ room, I almost fell again. It is a very trick step, and I am a very clumsy person.yamashiroexterior

-At a nearby table, an extremely loud man was laughing about the old days before email: “I remember giving my memos to admin,” he guffawed. “She’d correct my grammar!” Everyone at the table seemed to agree that this was hilarious.

-Printed in the menu: “Our menu is a journey through our rich history and sumptuous Asian-inspired cuisine.” That may be true, but the descriptions of the house rolls and similar were all printed in a tiny red font that was absolutely unreadable.

-David (my husband) had a hard time choosing between the “100-year-old Mai Tai” and the “Pineapple Sakatini,” which is fun to say. He eventually chose both, as it was his birthday. I don’t drink alcohol, but the 100-year-old Mai Tai came in a tall and thin glass, while the Sakatini glass was short and wide. So it seemed like a perfect combination to me.
photo by Keren

-Long before this place was a restaurant, it was just a mansion people lived in. The menu points out that a number of films have been filmed here, including 1920’s comedies starring someone named ‘Baby Peggy.’

-Also according to the menu, during the depression, people could pay a quarter to tour the gardens and admire the view—according to the inflation calculator, that was about $4.50 in today’s money. I like imagining young men who couldn’t afford other types of entertainment bringing their lady friends up here for dates. They all wore hats, I bet.

-In the 1920s, Yamashiro was the headquarters of the 400 Club, where the Hollywood Elite would hang out. It is so easy to picture them here, to almost feel them sitting next to you.

-In one of the patio corners, where two walls of windows meet, there is a two person table; it’s tucked into the corner so that instead of sitting across from each other the couple sits on adjoining sides, and both have views out the windows. It looks very cozy. There have probably been a lot of marriage proposals at that table. Like, really a lot.

-I forgot my jacket in the car. It was just chilly enough that I really wanted my jacket, but not quite chilly enough for me to go get my keys from the valet and make them show me to my car just so I could get my jacket. That’s one of the reasons I don’t like valet—going to your car becomes such a thing.

-Included in the description of Truffle Hamachi is something called “micro-arugula.”

-The staircase down to the ladies’ room was very long and steep, and inside there was a movie poster for the movie “Memoir of a Geisha,” and the stalls had green and gold wallpaper that Keren described as an attempt at grass paper.

-There were two women standing at the sink in the ladies’ room. They were talking but stopped as soon as I came in, and stood at the sinks silently. They were still there after I washed my hands and left. I assume they must have been spies meeting to exchange information.

-While we were eating, a couple was seated at the table in the corner. They seemed like incredibly snotty and obnoxious people, and like they spend all their time thinking about how they look. I got a little bit sentimental, thinking how perfect it was that they managed to find each other. No proposals, though, that I saw.

-The driveway outside the restaurant is just outside the patio, but a little lower down the hill. When cars drive by, the tops of the cars are even with the bottoms of the wall-length windows. It gives the place the tiniest feel of a Disney ride.

-When we asked to get things wrapped up in to-go boxes, the busboy was very conscientious about making sure he understood that we wanted two bags to take leftovers home it. I appreciated how much he seemed to care.

-There was a lot of discussion about dessert, which I mostly sat out because I don’t eat dessert, except I joined everyone in wondering what on earth dessert sushi might be. We asked on the way out; it is coconut rice and fruit made to look like sushi, with green tea ice cream for wasabi and marscapone for ginger. Some people differ with me on this, but I like it when food is charming as well as tasty.

-In the lobby is a sort of closet with a painted door, I nervously opened it and found, tucked inside, a secret ATM. I wonder what was in there before there were ATMs? Maybe a phone.

-At a table near the door was a very small child kneeling on his chair, wearing a tiny fedora. Adorable, but sad his parents are teaching him it’s okay to wear a fedora indoors.

yamashiropanelWhat I Ate: halibut (delicate, with toothpick), tempura, ahi poki (had them put the aoli on the side), thin chips, pistachio salmon, sashimi, chicken breast with green sauce, asparagus, a bite of lemon mashed potatoes, a bite of lamb chop and spaghetti squash, a bite of cold cucumber salad, a bite of smores fudge brownie (which had a candle in it, for David [my husband]’s birthday), a bite of peach crumble torte with cinnamon ice cream

Who I Ate With/Things We Talked About: David (my husband), his mom Keren, and his stepdad Jim; Frida Kahla; the SUR restaurant where David (my husband) and I went for our anniversary because someone gave us a gift card, and which apparently has a reality show set in it, people kept taking pictures with our waitress; ‘Rise of the Jack-o-Lanterns’ at Descanso Gardens; the movies ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Freaks,’ and the Daniel P. Mannix Book ‘Freaks, We Who Are Not As Others’; the Renoir Sucks at Painting instagram; Escape Room.

What Sort of Ghost I’d Expect to Find if I Believed in Ghosts Which I do Not: A twenties’ flapper/actress, who just shot her first movie, and is thrilled to be welcomed into the 400 Club she’s heard so much about. Note: Unless otherwise stated, all ghosts mentioned in this blog died peacefully of old age and then reverted to the age/place of their choosing.


1999 N Sycamore Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90068

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