The mountain palace began life in 1914 as a hilltop mansion
If there’s a more majestic place to dine in Los Angeles, it would be hard to argue against Yamashiro, the hilltop mansion overlooking Hollywood with one of the grandest restaurants in Los Angeles. It’s been a special occasion destination, an historic structure since 1914 when two brothers who loved Japanese culture built a place to house their Asian artwork.
Yamashiro, which translates to “mountain palace,” took three years to build on a hill nestled 250 feet above the main part of Hollywood. Since then, it’s morphed from a private residence to a secret clubhouse for the 400 Club during the 1920s, where Hollywood’s social class gathered.
During the 1940s the building was converted into a World War II military school and in 1948, Yamashiro’s previous owner Thomas O. Glover acquired the property. Glover planned to raze the beautiful structure and convert it into a hotel, but discovered ornate details and silk wallpaper beneath plywood and paint. During the military school years, many of the Japanese details were covered up. Glover opened a cocktail lounge in one of the back rooms and charged $1 for membership at the “Hollywood Hill Club.” Because of the bar’s popularity, it kept growing until New Year’s Eve in 1963, when Thomas’s son Tom Glover officially opened Yamashiro as a full-fledged restaurant.
Over the years, especially through the 70s and 80s, the space continued to transform. Perhaps the part of the restaurant that’s most unchanged is the original entrance. It’s hard to tell but the entire outer dining room was added to the structure, expanding the capacity and affording more of those pristine views down into Hollywood. The bar area is also pretty new, with upgraded flooring and interior accents.
Most of the light fixtures are supposedly original, in addition to many of the interior wooden door details. And the gorgeous garden courtyard might be the most untouched space, though the landscaping and layout itself likely shifted over the years. But the striking entrance and courtyard, plus the 600-year-old pagoda, leave plenty for LA history fans to explore.
As for the menu, the new ownership has been focusing on improving quality after years of lackluster execution. It’s a difficult task to appeal to mostly tourists with a few locals. On busy evenings, they’ll serve hundreds for dinner, which means the bill of fare ranges everything from sushi rolls and shrimp tempura to shoyu-glazed black cod and a wagyu burger. It’s all pretty expensive too, with prices equivalent to trendy places like Roku or Nobu down in West Hollywood. And while the food likely won’t win accolades or draw praise from Jonathan Gold, it’s enough to please the well-heeled and well-dressed crowds that come through.
The new owners, who own a slew of other nightlife spots in Hollywood like Adults Only, Project LA, and Lure, haven’t quite succumbed to turning Yamashiro into a club scene. And it doesn’t seem like their intentions (though when Eater took photos for this piece they were setting up for a karaoke night in the courtyard). With a new incoming sushi counter in one of the former interior dining rooms, and continued menu refinements from former Buddha Bar chef Christophe Bonnegrace, Yamashiro continues to be a testament to Hollywood’s historic dining scene.
Yamashiro. 1999 N Sycamore Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90068.
- All Yamashiro Coverage [ELA]
“Yamashiro: a Visual Feast of the Storied Hollywood Hilltop Restaurant.” Eater LA – All. https://la.eater.com/2017/11/21/16459554/yamashiro-history-hollywood-photos-los-angeles.