Monday, December 21, 2009

Kyoto in Hollywood

In a recent Yelp comment, one Keri C. from South Pas complains of "fake Asian . . . settings" and a "fake looking Pagoda" at Yamashiro restaurant in Hollywood.

Sorry, Keri—the pagoda, while small, is actually very authentic.

Poolside pagoda at Yamashiro (Capitol Records "pagoda" visible in distance).

The Japanese pagoda, imported in pieces and reassembled by department store moguls the Bernheimer brothers when they began construction of their lavish Yamashiro ("Mountain Palace") in 1911, is supposedly around 600 years old, making it by far the oldest structure standing in throw-'em-up-tear-'em-down Los Angeles. In ironic L.A. fashion, it now stands beside an amoeba-shaped 1960's swimming pool on the Yamashiro grounds.

The finial acted as a lightning rod.

The Yamashiro pagoda shortly after installation.

The Bernheimers' shared mansion and museum, now a well-touristed Cal-Asian restaurant whose claim to fame is its view (although I hear the food has improved of late), was completed in 1914 and is a a detailed re-creation of a Japanese temple near Kyoto. (Keri C. sez: "The main entrance is impressive, but clearly 'fake', vaguely resembling a Japanese temple.")

Last week I got a private tour—nothing you couldn't see by showing up for cocktails, however—and a chance to take a couple of snaps while the place was calm and empty (it's not open for lunch).

The courtyard.

Although the views over Hollywood and the entire L.A. basin are spectacular from the outer seating areas at Yamashiro, I think I would opt to dine in the courtyard, where you get a Hollywood-tinged taste of feudal Japan. The Pagoda Bar is open only during the warmer months.


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