“Welcome to the underworld’s only bar where the dead and the living co-exist. Welcome sinners, cowboys, soldiers, lumberjacks, miners and gamblers. Welcome those with a soul and those who left their soul in the realm of the living. Welcome home.” — Yomi’s Saloon
Getting to Yomi’s Saloon doesn’t quite require a journey to the underworld — but almost. First, the eager and curious must make their way to Yamashiro, a historic restaurant estate nestled in the Hollywood Hills, where the name itself literally translate to “mountain palace” in Japanese.
That nomenclature isn’t far off, but for guests who might be searching for a more intimate evening, ascending Hollywood’s hills can lead to another restaurant that’s cropped up on Yamashiro’s massive acreage — Kensho, which opened this past April thanks to Joseph Geiskopf and David Wynn (the pair behind Echo Park’s new breakfast spot, Triniti, though both properties now sadly seems to be in flux). But, on the second floor of the Kensho, starting today, July 3, a speakeasy that could turn even a pious ghost into a lush is now open for business.
Yomi’s Saloon is the brainchild of Courtney Nichols, who many may know from her successful and chic Disco Dining Club, a series of private dinner parties hosted around Los Angeles that’s racked up quite an impressive following among those with a taste for the unrestrained and unpredictable in private dining. The latest of these is a glow-in-the-dark ramen experience by Nakamura.ke Mobile Kitchen (chef Nhan Le of 8arm in Atlanta, supported by Duane Kulers and Skip Engelbrecht), a pop up restaurant and theater experience run by Japanese ghosts — aka yōkais —that takes place in a gracefully appointed shipping container brought to Yamashiro’s property (these ghosts are great with logistics).
Yomi’s Saloon is an offshoot of the venture, and probably easier to snag a ticket to, although buyouts and reservations are also possible. Frequent collaborators Happy Hour Agency, a queer, female-run cocktail programming agency helped Nichols create the sleek, surprising menu which will be served Wednesday through Sunday from 5 PM—1:30 AM in the private pop-up space for the next six weeks. With just four drink items and a single, surprising dessert pudding (by the ultramodern, Kik Pastry), the menu doesn’t feel sparse, but single-minded.
A tall, icy whiskey drink, Yomi’s Elxir ($19), has an element of luminescence, glowing neon green with Sierra Norte Corn Whiskey, Mio Sparkling Sake, Velvet Falernum, Creme de Banane, Rice Dream, pineapple, and egg white, that strike a dreamy, unusual balance of tart and sweet; another, Invoke The Spirit ($23), involves fire — at least to light the charcoal briquette included on the tray — which smokes the sage placed atop it. Only after that energy clearing can the patron consumes a blend of El Silencio Mezacal, Lillet Blanc, shiso cordial, tarragon, and citrus that’s more likely to cleanse the senses than shock them.
The aforementioned dessert, a Matcha Orb ($14), glows bright neon, too, pudding kept safely inside individual balloons that must be playfully stabbed with a cocktail garnish sword to be consumed. The orbs comes in an array of bright colors, and the homemade Japanese pudding is just another element that elevates the saloon beyond a typical, run-of-the-mill speakeasy.
Taken together, everything about the utterly transformed upstairs space makes Yomi’s the ideal joint for underworld-dwellers and human beings alike to sit and imbibe neon-powered drinks and snacks in a space lit by blacklight. Those interested in the afterlife need look no farther than this tucked away space, a velvety slice of heaven and hell that pays homage to the Japanese culture that birthed and inspired it, while maintaining plenty of decidedly Angeleno twists.
So yes, going to Yomi’s Saloon does feel like going home, if your idea of home is a cozy barstool, an expert ready to meet your need for a full-on cocktail experience, and a black light that glazes over your mistakes and illuminates your brightest qualities. That might not sound like the place you grew up in — it definitely doesn’t for me — but it certainly feels like the kind of home I want to make for myself, with a little help from the Nakamura family’s mystical yōkais.
For information on reservations or buyouts, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.