Thursday, March 16, 2006

Yamashiro: an L.A. classic

The view from Yamashiro
If you're still telling visitors to L.A. that they should go to Yamashiro for a drink, but under no circumstances should they chance ordering anything, it might be time to reevaluate that old canard. Since he started about two years ago, chef Jason Park has been updating the menu and bringing Yamashiro out of the dark ages of chicken teriyaki and into a brave new world of black rice and nasturtium-dandelion pesto. I had never eaten a full meal there, and we were invited to try it out.
It's a truly L.A. experience to climb the hill above the Magic Castle and be led past the lagoon to a table overlooking the lights of L.A., and one that few restaurants in the city can match. The good news is that you can actually eat here too now, especially if you enjoy Asian fusion fare of the Roy's/Koi/Yi persuasian.
I don't think any other L.A. restaurants have such an interesting history either -- after the Japanese temple-style building was constructed as a residence in 1911, it was a private club in the '20s, reportedly a bordello in the '30s and during World War II, it was suspected of being a hideout of anti-American Japanese merely because it was shaped like a pagoda. After the war it served as a military school, then came close to being destroyed before a new owner rescued and restored it.

lamb chops with ratatouille
Chef Park enjoys unusual ingredients -- sometimes a lot of them on a plate at a time -- and I thought the pea tendrils that came with my black cod were a great change from the usual sides. I also liked the refreshing coleslaw with apples and daikon that came with our crispy chicken appetizer. Although I love traditional, high-end sushi, I'm always up for trying silly rolls too. The Darth Vader roll with spicy tuna, avocado, black rice and black tobikko was indeed scarily black, but it was quite tasty. Matt enjoyed his tender chipotle-citrus lamb chops and the homemade doughnuts with buttermilk ice cream, while I dove into a pretty glass carafe of iced sake. Of course, Yamashiro has to please people from all over the world, so the menu isn't going to be challenging or revolutionary, but it's come a long way from it's former reputation.
1999 N. Sycamore Ave.

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