Seeing Stars: Hollywood Landmarks..  

    
1999 N. Sycamore Avenue,
Hollywood, CA. / (323) 466-5125

Just up the hill behind Mann's Chinese Theatre sit two unique Hollywood landmarks. If you turn north from Hollywood Boulevard, up Orange Drive, you will quickly come to the intersection of Orange and Franklin Avenue. Directly in front of you will be a sheer hillside, with a narrow, winding road ascending the heights.

The large building you see in front (at 7001 Franklin) is the famous Magic Castle, a private club for magicians and their invited guests only. (If you're still interested, you can give them a call at (323) 851-3313.)

But high above the Magic Castle, you will notice an even more impressive structure - a virtual castle perched upon the hill, some 250 feet above Hollywood Boulevard.

This is Yamashiro. The name means "Mountain Palace" Japanese . An exact  replica of a palace in the Yamashiro mountains of Kyoto, Japan, it was built as a private mansion in 1911. After the death of the original owners, the mansion was home to "The 400 Club", an exclusive social club for the Hollywood elite during the late 1920's, attracting silent screen legends such as Lilian Gish, Ramon Navarro and Bebe Daniels.

World War II and Pearl Harbor brought anti-Japanese hysteria to California, which led to the Yamashiro being vandalized, painted-over and eventually converted into a boys' military school. After the war, it was used as an apartment house, and it was about to be torn down in 1948 when (fortunately for the public) a new owner recognized the treasure beneath the paint, and decided to restore it.

From the 1970's through the mid 90's it served the public as a grand Japanese restaurant; today they offer CalAsian cuisine.

Boasting twelve acres of lushly landscaped gardens, waterfalls, koi ponds, a 14th century pagoda and a spectacular view of the city below, the Yamashiro is a Hollywood legend. It preserves some of the Old Hollywood glamour & intrigue that is sadly lacking on much of the tarnished Boulevard below. (An ironic bit of trivia: that 600-year-old pagoda, imported from Japan in 1914, ranks as the oldest building in California!)

Some of the stars who have dined here recently include Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Dolly Parton, Penny Marshall, LeAnn Rimes, Leeza Gibbons, Anjelica Houston, Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway and Ruth Buzzi.

       

In April of 2002, Maxim held their third annual "Hot 100" annual bash at Yamashiro and guests included Vin Diesel, Leonardo Di Caprio, Cameron Diaz, Charlyze Theron, Benecio Del Toro, Matthew Perry, Christina Aguilera, Melissa Joan Hart, Woody Harrelson, Ed Burns, Jamie Foxx, Andy Dick, Jaime Pressly, Nicole Eggert, Jerry O'Connell, Mickey Rourke, and Kelly Hu.

Yamashiro has even starred in the movies and television. The estate was used as the site for filming of the Oscar-winning 1957 movie "Sayonara," starring Marlon Brando, James Garner and Ricardo Montalbon. Brando was nominated for Best Actor and the movie itself was nominated for Best Picture. Red Buttons won the 'Best Supporting Actor' award for his role in the movie, and and the 'Best Supporting Actress' Oscar went to Miyoshi Umeki. Other productions shot here include "Gone in 60 Seconds," "Blind Date," "Thousand Men and a Baby" (a 1997 TV movie), "L.A. Without a Map" and a Toni Braxton video.

On TV, it was the filming location for popular series such as "I Spy," "Perry Mason," "Route 66" and "My Three Sons."

In July of 1998, Yamashiro was the scene of the post-premiere party for "Lethal Weapon 4." After Danny Glover had his footprints put in wet cement at the Chinese Theatre, the celebs moved to Yamashiro; party-goers included Danny Glover, Mel Gibson, Rene Russo, Joe Pesci, Chris Rock, George Clooney, Kirk Douglas, Paula Abdul, Neve Campbell, Chris O'Donnell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Halle Berry, Clint Black, Michael Bolton, Tim Burton, James Coburn, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Claire Danes, Salma Hayek, Cheryl Ladd, Eriq La Salle, Howie Mandel, Ralph Macchio, Nick Nolte, Donny Osmond, Luke Perry, Lionel Richie, LeAnn Rimes, Steven Seagal, Oliver Stone, the Wayans brothers and many more.

They also held the wrap parties here for "Rush Hour" and "Third Rock from the Sun."

While food critics have been less than kind to
Yamashiro over the years, the restaurant now features a new Cal-Asian menu (and new management). Entrees include Salmon in Puff Pastry, Shoyu Glazed Sea Bass, Filet Mignon Imperial and Classic Tempura. Prices are rather high (entrees average about $24, appetizers and desserts around $8), but the restaurant's ambiance is delightfully romantic and the view from the top is one of the best in the city. Some say your best bet is a brief stop for a cocktail at the restaurant's bar, just to glimpse the sights. (But don't drink and drive - especially since you'll have to negotiate that curvy road going down back down the hill.)

Open for dinner Sunday through Thursday, from 5:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m., and on Friday & Saturday from 5:30 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. They are not open for lunch. Their bar/lounge is open 7 days a week, from 5:00 p.m. until 2:00 am. Valet parking.

Getting there: From Grauman's Chinese Theatre, go a block west to Orange Drive, then turn right (north) on Orange Drive, and go one block to Franklin Avenue. In front of you will be signs pointing to the winding road that takes you up the steep grade to Yamashiro restaurant.

[You can reach Yamashiro's official website at: www.yamashirorestaurant.com.]




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