Yamashiro - Quelle Horreur!
First of all, it wasn't my idea to go there - in fact, when SO brought it up, I was apalled. But SO's dear friends are visiting from Boston, and they already had reservations for 2, which they kindly offered to change to 4 so that we could all go together. We really wanted to spend time with them, and it would have been rudely pushy to try to change the venue, so we agreed.
[Sidebar: I don't know quite how we keep getting into this situation with SO's visiting friends. Last time, a different pair of out-of-towners picked the Ivy, and the time before that, yet a third couple selected Doughboys. And the infuriating thing is, I have a sneaking suspicion that all of these people go back to where they live and tell all their friends, "Gosh, there's just NO GOOD FOOD in LA! Cultural wasteland, you know." These are well-educated, well-traveled people - and now that there's a decent search function on this website, there's just no excuse for not doing your homework!]
So, Yamashiro. To be fair, we'd never been before, and I thought it was possible that my instinct that it is a cheesy, overpriced tourist trap was born of a native-Angeleno snobbery that I should try to keep in check. So I tried to go into it with an open mind. But it turns out that a cheesy, overpriced tourist trap is EXACTLY what it is.
First, the much-lauded view. Yes, it is definitely the best thing about the place, and when you're standing at the end of the property looking over the city, you can forget for a moment that you're at what feels like Disney's Japanese Village. But at our table in the "Sunset Room", half the view was of the parking lot, which cuts the romance significantly.
Next, the ambience and service. To be honest, I'm shocked that a city that boasts many very vibrant Asian communites allows this kind of cultural stereotyping and caricaturing to exist. I understand that it's Hollywood - I suppose it's no worse that Mann's Chinese, or the Egyptian, or any other fake temple of Hollywood's love of so-called "exoticism". But, horrific architecture aside, there does seem to me to be something offensive about having a bevy of white hostesses greet you at the door, while all of the waitresses I saw were Japanese (and not very good waitresses, by the way!).
Finally, the food. Don't eat it - it's bad. Enough said.
I was burned by this restaurant a couple of years ago. The worse service ever. Typically restaurants that have Japanese waitresses tend to be very polite so this was really weird. My parents actually went by themselves for an anniversary dinner and the waitress didnt even want to help my parents take a picture! They had to talk to management and still little changed. I would never go back ..
I'm in Los Angeles for the first time, visiting from NYC, and a friend from NYC suggested that my husband and I go to Yamashiro for dinner. So we went last night. I expected a trendy place with a great view and great drinks because of the person who recommended the restaurant. However, I found Yamashiro to be an overpriced tourist trap with a good view and good service (from an aspiring female actor who is Caucasion btw). I thought the food was awful, just awful. I am appalled that my trendy, hip friend would recommend this place to eat.
I've been to Yamashiro probably every one or two years since I was a teen, which totals at least 25 visits. This place had a lot of sentimental value to my family. I've seen many changes over the years. I am of the generation that misses the old Japanese customs which used to accompany this restaurant's service, including the kimona clad waitresses. The place is NOT a tourist trap - it is a fine and very old building which has been carefully preserved and enhanced with beautiful gardens. The food was traditional, which along with the setting was a perfect Japanese experience.
Probably ten years ago the owner turned management over to a young relative whose idea was hip and trendy and in keeping with Cal-Asian. They ditched the menu, the open windows which let in the cool night breezes, along with Japanese waiters and waitresses who had worked there for many years and knew about service. This was replaced with high-priced, mediocre food, and "hip wait staff, mostly aspiring actors of caucasian background and their equally expressionless managers and booking staff.
We almost abndoned this family tradition, yet the last visit in the early spring evidenced a fresh new cooking style. I was tremdously impressed with the food. We still had the waiter who was too busy to chat, but the place was hopping and there wasn't a tour bus in sight. the food is still way too expensive for the portions but the quality is much improved.
And the view - ahhhh better than ever.