Yee Mee Loo's Lives On at Glendale Restaurant

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Here's a tale of how things may come to good ends in the San Fernando Valley. Cinnabar restaurant in Glendale hosted a special dinner Sunday night to honor John and Claudia Low, who operated Yee Mee Loo's restaurant and bar in Los Angeles' Chinatown for five decades.

The Lows closed down Yee Mee Loo's in 1989, unable to satisfy a landlord who wanted to turn the site into something trendier than a very old bar and restaurant, even one with a loyal following.

The landlord's plans came to nothing, as it happened. The building that housed Yee Mee Loo's, at Spring and Ord streets, fell to the wrecker's ball, and the site now stands vacant.

But Yee Mee Loo's bar, the actual counter--known as the Kwan Yin bar, after the Chinese goddess of compassion--survived. Alvin Simon, who owns Cinnabar, rescued it to hold up bent elbows in his own place, including those of many old-timers who followed the bar to its new residence.

Much of the gilding on the bar has worn away, but it still boasts its original silk panels, its tile and lanterns and its statues of the eight immortals of Chinese lore.

"I wanted that bar," Simon says. "I used to drink at Yee Mee Loo's, and I didn't want it to disappear."

Adds his sister Flame, who helps run things at Cinnabar:

"Yee Mee Loo's was a great, great hangout for writers and artists and drinkers and bums and street people. Anybody who really knew old Los Angeles went to Yee Mee Loo's.

"I think the bar sat for a long time in the old building while it was vacant, before it was destroyed. My brother wanted to bring it here to Cinnabar because it fits the decor of this old building. We're in an old Bekin's Van and Storage building; the men's room is in what used to be the old fur vault.

"The old-timers from Yee Mee Loo's tracked the bar down, found out that we had it, and started coming here."

Sunday's dinner for John and Claudia Low featured items from a menu recently overhauled by Cinnabar chef Damon Bruner. It was by invitation only, and people came from far and wide.

But on other nights, Cinnabar plays host to ordinary mortals who want a taste of what the Los Angeles bar-and-restaurant scene was like many years ago. It is located at 933 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 551-1155.

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The energetic celebrity chef Martin Yan, host of the popular PBS cooking show "Yan Can Cook" and author of a book with the same title, will present a cooking demonstration Feb. 1 in the kitchen of the Main Course at Bloomingdale's in Sherman Oaks.

"I don't know yet exactly what he's going to cook, but it'll be a two-hour demonstration," says Jim Yoppolo, who runs Bloomingdale's Main Course kitchen. "He always does a great show--like showing people how to bone a chicken in, say, seven seconds flat."

The demonstration lasts from noon to 2 p.m. Bloomingdale's is in the Fashion Square Mall, 14060 Riverside Drive, Sherman Oaks, (818) 325-2492.

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Tam O'Shanter Inn in the Los Feliz area celebrates the birthday of the 18th-century Scottish poet Robert Burns with two nights of entertainment Monday and Tuesday.

The festivities will also begin the restaurant's observance of its 75th birthday.

Chef Ivan Harrison will cook haggis, the Scottish dish traditionally made of the innards of a sheep or calf mixed with suet, seasoning and oatmeal and boiled in the sack of the animal's stomach--a concoction that may well account for the Scottish people's capacity to endure great suffering.

For less hardy souls, the birthday menu will also feature prime rib, roast duckling, salmon, lamb shank, and toad in the hole--Yorkshire pudding filled with filet mignon, fresh mushroom caps, onions and peppers in a red wine sauce.

The celebrations will feature performances of Scottish music and dancing and readings of Burns' poems--including "Tam O'Shanter"--by members of the L.A. Troupe theater group.

Burns was born Jan. 25, 1759, and his rustic poetry took England by storm as the Romantic Age began. The Tam O'Shanter Inn has celebrated his birthday on the last Monday of January for 20 years. Two years ago, the restaurant had to extend the celebrations into a second night to accommodate all who wanted to take part.

The Frank and Van De Kamp families founded Tam O'Shanter in 1922 and still operate it-- along with such other Southern California landmark restaurants as Lawry's Prime Rib in Beverly Hills and the Five Crowns restaurant in Orange County.

Tam O'Shanter will continue its observance of its 75th year with special dinners honoring William Shakespeare on April 23 and Charles Dickens in November.

The restaurant is at 2980 Los Feliz Blvd., (213) 664-0288.

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Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or via e-mail at JHovey@compuserve.com

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