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the bar that hopped

May 14, 2000|LEILAH BERNSTEIN

Could its history be as storied as that of the fictional "Red Violin"? That, indeed, is the mystery of the ornate Chinese bar at the Glendale restaurant Cinnabar.

Its maker, place of origin and date remain unknown. But some believe the bar appeared in Frank Capra's 1933 film "The Bitter Tea of General Yen," and then in a barbecue joint in old Chinatown before landing at the popular hangout called Yee Mee Loo.

"It's a priceless heirloom of old Los Angeles," says Cinnabar owner Alvin Simon, who acquired the 8-foot-high, 10-foot-wide carved wood and gilt bar in 1992 after Yee Mee Loo closed. The blind-stitched embroidered silk side panels feature faded images of flowers, birds and trees. On top sits Kwan Yin, goddess of mercy, surrounded by the Eight Immortals of Chinese lore. Real incense burns below her, and light flickers from seven votive candles and two Chinese wood and silk lanterns.

Among the bar's offerings is blue curaao, used to make Yee Mee Loo's trademark drink, the Tidy Bowl. What's missing, though, is Yee Mee Loo's last bartender, Richard Mah. He'll stay put at the Good Luck, a Los Feliz bar that was modeled after the Yee Mee Loo.

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