Saturday, June 18, 2011

Yamashiro Farmers' Market: Free Fun Fusion Thursdays

Yamashiro is one of those LA landmarks that I've somehow never made it to in my 15 years here.  Though I'd heard of its legendary views in the hills above Hollywood, its prices were of an unreachable altitude for me as a student, and then when I started working there were so many other places which had more irresistible appeal to my inner foodie, and I had to pick and choose based on budget.

But I am a fan of farmers' markets, and when I found out about the one Yamashiro hosts Thursday nights (April to September) - albeit a year late, this is their second year - I invited 'Designer' to check it out with me. 

There were several things to love about Yamashiro's Farmers' Market, even before we ever set foot on the property:

It's one of the few NIGHT markets  - running 5-9pm, the timing is convenient for those who want  to access fresh produce during the week but have day jobs (I have yet to make it to Santa Monica's Wednesday Farmers' Market).  There's always the original Farmers' Market on 3rd and Fairfax, but strolling through the permanent structure just doesn't feel the same as your weekly 'event' markets.

FREE parking and shuttle the word "Hollywood" usually conjures thoughts of "parking nightmare" - and Yamashiro is conscious of this as well as challenges with access to its hilltop location.  So they offer free parking in a lot just off Hollywood and La Brea (at 7107 Hollywood Blvd), with free shuttle service up & down the hill.  This past Thursday, the lot was full as I drove past, but I easily found meter parking a block south on La Brea (free after 6pm).  It was then just a short walk to the lot to catch the shuttle. 

'Designer' overheard the best description of the journey up the tree-lined, winding road to the market from a fellow rider - it felt like a 'field trip'!

We loved the street / food fest vibe of the market - with its 20s/30s crowd milling about, getting wine & beer while perusing the produce and food offerings - bonding easily with strangers over their finds or shared seating at the makeshift tables and chairs lining the length of the terrace overlooking the city. 

We'd heard about the awesome food, with a well-curated collection of vendors and food trucks (including Heirloom LA and Coolhaus last Thursday!) but were most excited to try Yamashiro exec chef  Brock Kleweno's offerings at street food prices. Yamashiro's Market Grill menu had us drooling on sight - it was all we could do to restrain ourselves from ordering the entire list!

Since short rib is now ubiquitous though, we decided to go with the more unique sounding fusion tacos: Black Cod with miso sake marinade ($6) and Duck Confit with blood orange and agave salsa ($5).  You could watch the chefs - including Chef Brock - prepare your food from the open grill at the tent.  Both fusion tacos were amazing, tender, juicy and flavorful, each served with crazy addictive (and free!) sides of Wasabi Guacamole and Pickled Shishito Peppers.  Easily my favorite fusion street tacos. 

I LOVED the wasabi guacamole while Designer was a huge fan of the peppers.  We could have had a meal just of these!  We hustled back to the taco stand before they closed for second rounds of the cod tacos, and when I told Chef Brock how much I loved the guac he was nice enough to give us extra dollops!

Had the guac been for sale I would have bought a bucket full - and was thrilled when Chef Brock said they are thinking about starting to offer it for sale!!!!

We were so obsessed with Yamashiro's food that we didn't really get to peruse of the other stalls after we started in on the food - but they had some fun ones from jewelry to loofah vendors.

Which brings me to the other cool thing about Yamashiro Farmers' Market - the element of the unexpected.  That day they had tweeted an invite for people to "check out the Wolves" and to "Hang out with them above the Pagoda Bar".  I and some other folks at the market thought they were talking about a live band.  When we found out they meant actual, live animals we could pet and play with in the terraces above the market, we had to make a stop there!

Though we weren't entirely sure of the thematic connection...could it be to spark thoughts of being "hungry like a wolf"? was for a good cause, their special appearance was in support of a wolf sanctuary to raise awareness and funds.  And I had been trying to train myself recently to stop looking for reason and logic in everything, to stop living in my head so much and just to go with the flow - live in the present to enjoy it. This was one great example of that.  The wolves were beautiful, gentle and adorable. One sleepyhead snuggled against its trainer, while another named "Maya" was at first shy, but when encouraged by her trainer turned friendly and came up to us for head rubs.  We had a fab time playing with and taking pics of the wolves, who were sweet as puppies - loved them!

And last but not least, Yamashiro ("Mountain Palace" in Japanese) is known for its spectacular views, which didn't disappoint.  We sat down at the benches to admire the view at dusk, with lights glowing from buildings below.  Couldn't believe it took us this long to 'discover' this place!

Peaceful and relaxing, it almost felt like we were on vacation - though we should have brought warmer clothes as it got a bit cold once it started getting dark. 

With all the cool/fun stuff happening, I actually forgot about fruit / veggie shopping! D'oh! I do remember the prices, at quick glance, being comparable to other farmers' markets - a bucket of cherries for example was $5, same as at Studio City Farmers' Market.

Before leaving (last shuttle leaves at 10pm) we wandered into the restaurant to check it out.  Built by German brothers in 1914 as a private estate to house their finds from "the orient", which has since evolved to restaurant and public gardens - it definitely doesn't give off the same aura of authenticity (as much as you can get in LA) that Gonpachi boasts of in terms of architecture / decor / vibe, but if you take it for what it is - a historic tourist attraction, that does offer a very LA experience for those who want to sip asian-inspired cocktails with respectively themed names and typography, or enjoy CalAsian fare over amazing views, Yamashiro is a great venue for a night out with friends, private events, or a date depending on who you're with.

For those who want to experience Yamashiro without paying Michelin-star prices - Farmers' Market, which just got named one of the World's Top Night Markets by Travel+Leisure, is a must every Thursday 5-9pm now through September.  Be sure to stop by the ATM first though as the Yamashiro Market Grill is cash only.  I know I'll definitely be back for those tacos and wasabi guac/or just for a refreshing local getaway for a few hours during the week!

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $ (1 bite mark Yamashiro Farmers' Market Grill menu)
Probability of return visit - 100% 

[See more photos from Yamashiro Farmers' Market at my Facebook page]

Yamashiro Farmers' Market
Thursdays 5-9pm
1999 N. Sycamore Ave., Hollywood, CA 90068
Ph: 323.466.5125

Parking: Free in lot at 7107 Hollywood Blvd, with free shuttle service to market. Also free meter parking after 6pm on La Brea.


Yamashiro on Urbanspoon


  1. i went last year when parking was a nightmare. glad to hear about the shuttle!

  2. Yeah the shuttle is a lifesaver! Just read your post - now I have "Night Market/Swimming" stuck in my head ;)



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