Photos: Saying Goodbye To Yamashiro
High up above Hollywood Boulevard, Yamashiro has been a beloved Los Angeles nightlife spot for over 50 years, largely because of its sweeping views. It's hard to imagine it shutting down, but that seems to be—at least for a while—its impending fate. The family that has cared for the restaurant for the last few decades is hoping that those who loved it will come one last time to say goodbye.
Thomas Y. Glover thinks that Yamashiro probably has until sometime in June. Glover, whose father—Thomas O. Glover—bought the property in 1948, didn't want to sell. However, Glover says a court-ordered force sale occurred because Glover's nieces and nephews—also owners of the property—did. JE Group, a hotel operator based in Beijing, bought the property in March for $40 million. Glover says they told him that he could remain if he paid $100,000 a month in rent. "That is just frankly impossible," Glover tells LAist.
"We're hoping to get a few more months because we've had numerous weddings scheduled…and obviously the brides are pretty upset with the idea that we won't be there," he says. "We're hoping to stay as long as we can. As it stands, [JE Group] filed an unlawful detainer, which is basically an eviction notice. And that has to go through the court. So, we're hoping to get at least to the middle of June." The next court date is scheduled for May 5.
After that, Glover isn't sure what will happen. He thinks the restaurant will likely be closed for a while and may reopen as another restaurant. However, JE hasn't bought Yamashiro's liquor license, nor any of the furniture or fixtures. If JE Group doesn't want to buy the furniture and fixtures, Glover said they'll sell them all at an auction, as they will no longer have any specific use for the objects.
Glover's stepson and Yamashiro manager Carlos Ulloa tells us that they'd like to work with the new company in some way—both he and his father have expressed concern for the current staff—but nothing is certain.
Ulloa discussed the impending sale in a short documentary from filmmaker Ben Strang that came out last year.
Whatever happens, what JE can't do is tear the whole thing down. Yamashiro was declared a Historic-Cultural Monument in 2008. It appears on the National Register of Historic Places as the Yamashiro Historic District, along with other structures on the property, including a 600-year-old Japanese pagoda. But, JE Group does have the option of turning it into a private residence or something else entirely. (We sent out an email to JE Group, but haven't heard back.)
Glover's wife, Jane, says she hopes people come to say goodbye. Many people have been married here, many questions have been popped, and numerous birthdays and other celebrations have taken place on the grounds.
And if you don't know Yamashiro, "We'd love for you to come up and understand what a loss it is to us," Jane says. "We're heartbroken, but you know there's only so much we can do."
Notably, the Glovers also own the Magic Castle property, which was not part of the sale.
Yamashiro, which means "mountain palace" in Japanese, was built as an estate for brothers Charles and Adolph Bernheimer. They hailed from a wealthy family and traveled frequently. They dreamed of having a replica of a palace they had seen near Kyoto to store their acquired treasures, and in 1911, construction began.
The Times wrote about the house when it was finished, including a strange rumor about the brothers' allowed visitors.
In an article dated November 15, 1914:
Yesterday, the wonder-house of California was opened for inspection, fit, in the luxury of its appointments, to be the adobe of a Mutsuhito, but in reality to be the home of two New York cotton importers- Adolph and Eugene Bernheimer. It crowns a lofty hill off Hollywood Blvd., a feudal fortress with a metropolitan setting. Travelers who have toured through Nippon-land conceded that there is nothing in native Japan to surpass the marvelous beauty of the Bernheimer villa, a replica of all desirable in a Japanese dwelling place. And with the striking strangeness of it all, there comes a touch of sinister romance, for the hosts there are bachelors, and it is rumored that they have made a pact that no woman shall ever enter the place as an invited guest.
The brothers sold their palatial estate in 1924 to a man named John Tait, according to KPCC. Actor Frank Elliott successfully pitched using the property as a home for the 400 Club, a private club for actors who were back then not allowed into other private clubs.
During WWII, Yamashiro was wrongly thought by many to be a Japanese signal tower. Many of its Asian design elements were disguised, and the building briefly became a boys' military school and then a 15-unit apartment building.
Thomas O. Glover bought the place—then in disrepair—in 1948, initially imagining he would tear it down and build a hotel or apartments. However, he found himself enamored with the home once he realized what was hiding beneath the paint, and restored it instead. He later opened a cocktail bar and charged $1 admission to get into his 'Hollywood Hill Club.'
The younger Thomas Glover would eventually turn the bar into a restaurant, beginning with only four tables. Later on, they'd implement a farmers market occurring each Thursday, April through September. The menu features sushi and Cal-Asian cuisine, and the signature dish is the Himalayan Salt Plate. A block of Himalayan salt is heated up to about 400 degrees, then brought to the table with thinly sliced American Waygu beef, potatoes and roast garlic. You can then use the salt plate to cook the steak at the table.
Of course, as anyone will tell you, Yamashiro's food is second to the views and the ambiance. While seats near the front of the house offer the chance to watch the sun set over Hollywood, an interior dining room features a lovely garden and koi pond. And no trip is complete without taking the time to wander the gardens. There, you can find a statue of Buddha and a sign telling you to please not climb on him.
Yamashiro has played a role in several films, including Memoirs of a Geisha, Gone in 60 Seconds and Sayonara.
You can spot it at about 5:40 in this clip from Sayonara.
If you plan on stopping by in what may be Yamashiro's eleventh hour, know that you can valet park for $10 and the ATM is hidden in a little closet near the hostess stand. And we like the pork carnitas.
Yamashiro is located at 1999 N Sycamore Ave. in Hollywood, (323) 466-5125.