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Special Restaurant Issue | Lotus Land

There's no place like om

Hey, you! The shaved head chanting guy in the saffron robes! How about a couple beers over here?

June 19, 2005|Andrew John Ignatius Vontz | Andrew John Ignatius Vontz last wrote for the magazine about hipster hairstyles.

At Hollywood hot spot Mood on a recent Wednesday night, pimped-out SUVs lined the curb, and past the impenetrable velvet ropes Jay-Z and his posse were partying to hip-hop and '80s mashups amid Indonesian-themed decor featuring temple bells, Shiva statues and pillar-sized carvings of Buddhist monks. The dance floor was stocked with more candy than aisle two at 7-Eleven. Ladies with pompadours and psychedelic do-rags and dudes sporting fedoras and trucker lids demonstrated a superb grasp of A-list grooming and wardrobe cliches, while the wall of candles in the outdoor lounge made Mood a veritable temple of boom.

Bars and clubs such as Mood that look to the Far East for inspiration are dominating Hollywood nightlife. Dim red lighting, rice paper wall panels, hand-carved hardwood gods, sushi and celeb owners are among the common denominators uniting these rival night spots that peddle experiences as varied as the tiger and crane styles of kung fu.

A few steps west on Hollywood Boulevard is Geisha House, a pastiche of classic and modern Japanese design. The space flows from a temple-style entrance hall into a bar area, where red-lighted alcoves for lounging face a wall of cubes meant to evoke the rent-a-beds at modern Japanese train stations. A pillar with multiple fireplaces dominates the center of a dining area with kimono fabrics on the walls, and an oval balcony holds more seating. Penelope Tuesday spins tunes from a platform on the catwalk clad in fishnet stockings, a garter belt and leather.

The club's two full-time sake sommeliers advise guests on the perfect sake for their sashimi. One of the house's cocktail specials, Geisha's Kiss, is made with sake and lychee fruit. Perhaps most important, Geisha House is packed with a good-looking, up-for-it crowd in fancy dress who use the Moon Room upstairs as a full-blown lounge experience in a large open-roof space.

Koi on La Cienega Boulevard jump-started L.A.'s Asia-themed nightlife three years ago. Hollywood's brightest balls of gas have dined and drunk among the orchids, bonsai trees, bamboo and water features at this still white-hot spot ever since. Subdued lighting, tasty fish and frequent appearances by Paris Hilton and the rest of the Us Weekly poster children mean snagging a table takes advance planning.

Meanwhile, way out West at the Hyatt on the Sunset Strip, Justin Timberlake's Chi is modeled after Shanghai gangster bars of the '30s and has the look and feel of an opium den. Timberlake hired a feng shui master to decorate the joint. The massive outdoor patio has recessed benches that wrap around rock-encased water features.

The lo-fi hipster haunt Tokio brings another taste of Japan to the Cahuenga bar corridor. A wood divider roughly down the center of Tokio delineates its dual identity. The south side of the space is a bar with a karaoke stage and a small dance area, and the north side is a sushi dining area and lounge with rice paper walls. With its refined yet almost cartoonish Japanese atmosphere, which includes waiters in karate shirts and an abundance of dark hardwood and rice paper, Tokio is poised to become the new Saddle Ranch for dedicated club goers.

North of Hollywood Boulevard on Vine is the dragon-red Forbidden City, a Hong Kong-inspired restaurant and lounge. Asian beauties in schoolgirl skirts and mirrored platform boots gyrated on chrome poles for a hip-hop crowd on a recent night. "The colors of hard-core Chinese bars, with their reds and golds, is very sexy," says Forbidden City owner Steve Edelson. "There's a sense of danger and excitement. It's like forbidden fruit."




Chi 8401 Sunset Blvd.; (323) 848-3884.

Forbidden City 1718 Vine St.; (323) 461-2300.

Geisha House 6633 Hollywood Blvd.; (323) 460-6300.

Koi 730 N. La Cienega Blvd.; (310) 659-9449.

Mood 6623 Hollywood Blvd.; (323) 464-6663.

Tokio 1640 N. Cahuenga Blvd.; (323) 464-2065.

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