Oh, Hollywood… that troublesome, pesky Hollywood! We Angelenos love it, but in the same way that we love our handsome dog that bites or our glamorous aunt who drools. The love affair can be hard to explain when people visit from out of town. Naturally, they want to see it. But what do you show them? The Jack Sparrow impersonator getting spin kicked by a gang of break dancers? A grimy little shop where they can buy a Wizard of Oz key chain? This can be a tough diplomatic tap dance for a gal to get just right, depending upon the tastes and expectations of her out-of-town guests.
Yamashiro is one of those “problem solved” places. Its exquisite position in the Hollywood Hills provides a panoramic view of our great Los Angeles basin. The Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory, downtown L.A., Century City… just turn your head, take a few steps, and they’re all on display. The glittering lights of the city add sparkle to the grittier reminders of urban life, such as police helicopters circling overhead.
And then there’s Yamashiro itself, with its elaborate architecture and landscaping. The grounds look a little worn these days, and locked gates prevent you from exploring every corner, but they are still lovely if you look in the right directions. Just be careful to do your strolling before you start drinking, if at all possible, as one will negotiate a few steep stairs. The “Watch Your Step” graphic at the top of them tells a tale.
Like many of us these days, Tawny is a gal on a budget, but I get to splurge now and then when my well-heeled gentleman friend comes to town. He had never been there, and I hadn’t been there in years, so off we went to Yamashiro with a mutual hungry friend to soak in the view, sink some sake, and sample as much sushi as we possibly could.
We reserved a table in the bar lounge and got a great view of the city at sunset. We ignored the various hot plate offerings and aimed straight at the cocktails, appetizers and sushi. Our waiter was charming and attentive; over the course of the evening, we were never left wanting for anything despite the fact that restaurant was very busy. The patrons were a blend of people, all engaged in lively conversation, making for an upbeat feel to the room. The atmosphere was romantic, with indirect lighting set down low. I would have preferred it to be a little brighter, as I wanted to better see the attractive arrangements on the plates. The interior courtyard dining area with its delicate landscaping looked like another prime location for a date, although one must trade the view of the city in order to enjoy its charms.
I have heard told that a food critic should not get drunk, but I’m not so much a food critic as a reporter looking to enjoy the experience as I normally would. So… over the course of the evening, we enjoyed the Norman’s mai-tai, which includes a “secret ingredient”… I couldn’t tell you what… booze…? Tee hee!, the zingy infused pineapple sake-tini, and the perfumy lychee margarita (de-lychee-ous!). We also sipped two types of sake, the Tozai “Living Jewel” (junmai) and the “Distinguished Warlord” Hideyoshi (namacho honjozo). The junmai was smooth and clean and the namacho honjozo was complex and with a bit more zing. Both served as an excellent complement to the food. All in all, a satisfying indulgence!
Our appetizers of choice were the calamari tempura (with chipotle-tartar) and the truffle hamachi (white truffle infused ponzu, teardrop tomato-garlic confit and micro arugula). Both were quite memorable. Calimari is a commonplace appetizer, but this calamari, with its crisp, light batter and savory tartar dipping sauce, was addicting from first bite, and the blend of truffle-infused ponzu with the smooth, smoky hamachi made for a deliciously subtle combination.
We then went on to order way too much sushi… basically a spectrum of all the basics plus their special Darth Vader roll (spicy tuna, tobiko, cucumber, avocado, spicy mayonnaise). The sushi ranges in price from $6-10, sashimi $12-19, and the cut rolls $7-18. Not the most inexpensive sushi you can find, but not the most expensive either. Everything we ate tasted fresh, buttery, sweet and/or pleasingly salty. The Darth Vader roll was the standout, but we enjoyed it all.
To cap off the evening, we found a place in our hearts, minds and stomachs to have a little dessert. We sampled the dessert sushi, blood-orange meringue and warm chocolate souffle cake. They were all tasty and artfully displayed, especially the dessert sushi, which was the most unique offering of the three. It was far too large for me to finish, so you might want to consider sharing this with a friend if you’ve already had enough to eat.
If you just want to soak in the view without spending a lot of money, check out the Farmers Market that runs from April 5 – September 27. Enjoy some fusion tacos, bratwurst and other mouth-watering delights along with wine, coffee and other beverages as you browse the local produce and other goods. I may see you there!