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Tai Ping, Los Angeles, CA (restaurant)

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Name:Tai Ping
Street:3888 Crenshaw Blvd.
City:Los Angeles

Cantonese Cuisine • Steaks • Cocktails • Tropical Drinks • Luncheon • Dinner • Banquet Facilities

I drove by this place a few times a week for at least 5 years and every time I did I’d think “Hmm that place must’ve been Tiki at one time” It was covered in Lava but I never stopped. Later on while doing phone book research at the library I came across this ad :down:

"Crenshaw? Oh Shit!" I came home and did a google map search and indeed it was the same mystery place, now I just needed to go in.

From the street all you could see was the Lava wall, when you park out front then you notice the waterfall next to the door and the Oceanic Arts door pull, however that door didn’t open and I noticed there was a courtyard entrance just down the sidewalk

Upon entering the courtyard there was even more LAVA ~

The door was open and I could here water running I ran in up and over small tiki bridge :down: THIS IS NOT THAT BRIDGE!

It was this type of Tiki Bridge but with only 4 posts and they were painted green. It was going over a small stream flowing from a waterfall in the corner. I got my camera out was ready to take some pictures when I noticed the “Manager” at the bar - he said he was the manager but I think he was some sort of club promoter - his business card listed him as an “Independent Associate Travel Agent” yeah.

Me: Can I take a picture of your Tiks?

Independent Associate Travel Agent: ”No you can not!”

He wasn’t that cool but he gave me a tour of the place, all that was left was the stream, bridge and waterfall, there was a very cool sunken bar but it was mid-sixties and not Tiki and a stage to the right of that. The rest of the place was private Karaoke rooms. I didn’t have any cash on me otherwise I would’ve bought some drinks and then taken pictures, I asked again and the guy wouldn’t budge, it sounds lame but he was really adamant about the no pictures thing.

I returned with Tiki-Kate and Sven once but it was a Sunday and it was closed. I went back after that but the door was always locked. A while later I saw some construction workers out front. I thought “Oh maybe they're painting or something” but I was soon over come with despair and I knew it would be more than that. I drove over and saw another construction worker in the back and asked if they were remodeling but he didn't speak English and couldn't answer any questions but he let me in and I immediately noticed the Tiki Bridge was gone. The canal was still there but was just bare cement; it looked like the stream had ran the length of the restaurant. The waterfall was still there. I checked the dumpster and went back to work but on the way home I decided to finally become assertive and stop and take another look this time I was only able to take a couple of out of focus waterfall shots before the owner (an older Asian guy) asked why I was taking pictures?

I tried to explain that I liked this stuff and asked about the bridge but I was leading the conversation and he wasn't going to give me any real answers -

Me: Why did you decide to remove the bridge, time for a change?
Owner Guy: Time for a change.

Me: Can I take a picture of where it was?
Owner Guy: No.

It went on like that for a couple minutes before I knew I should give up and go. He then followed me out. I hope that someone either took the Tikis or that he had them in another room and hadn't yet gotten rid of them. I know it's probably just wishful thinking. Now I know why the other guy wouldn't let me take any pictures, he already knew the stuff was going to be gone soon but why not just give me a heads up?

When it was finished I read that they had the river still flowing from the waterfall covered in Plexiglas with fish swimming underneath, that sounds neat but I never made it back to see if the bridge was still there, for the past few months it’s been flashing a Closed For Repairs sign out front. I call it ~ Revenge of the Tiki Bridge! :wink:

I remember, this was my last expedition with Tiki Kate. After Tai Ping we went to that borderline condition but intact mid-century apartment neighborhood, too.

Tai Ping must have been great once, I believe O.A. were involved. Really an urban hideaway in row of generic businesses...or wait, from the back it looked like part of some mid-century shopping plaza that had seen better days, didn't it? WHO has that property's history?


Great post Boris !!

I think I vaguely recall that place, it was right near the old Holiday Bowl, a mid-century "Atomic" gem near and dear to the local (at that time) Japanese American and African American communities. It closed down in 2000 and is now a Starbucks. :(


In the future, try to dress like a detective and then take all the pictures you want, like you own the place. Remember what Harry Dean Stanton said in "Repo Man":


[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2010-10-29 13:54 ]

On 2010-10-29 13:50, JOHN-O wrote:
In the future, try to dress like a detective and then take all the pictures you want, like you own the place. Remember what Harry Dean Stanton said in "Repo Man":
[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2010-10-29 13:54 ]

John-O, I’m well aware of the Repo Code and I tried to “Square it Up” as much as I could but this was very much like the scene from Live and Let Die when James Bond walks into Fillet of Soul in Harlem.

Kudos for hunting this place down, Boris. What a cool old joint! Of course it looks like they remodeled all the coolness out of it. Several times I've found these old places just before they get torn down. Too bad about the bridge.

Ouuuh, just heard from O.A. that George Nakashima did the decor! The man did the Luau, Kon Tikis, Mai Kai and Mauna Loa! This must have been quite a gem that went totally under the radar of of us urban archeologists. Who knows how long it was intact before its recent final destruction!
This reminds me of the China Trader: Drove by that place a dozen times without checking it out, and then it was gone...

Excellent recon and intel report, field agent Bora Boris. And with Bigbro's recent discovery of the it's regal past connected to George Nakashima, what a find. Maybe now that it is uncovered, some more info will turn up.


Nice work Bora Boris.

This place opened around may 1960 according to the LA Times.

May 1, 1960 LA Times; "The recent opening of Tai Ping, a dining place in southwest Los Angeles, has created such enthusiasm that we hasten to spread the news! Just two blocks north of the May Co., at 3888 Crenshaw Blvd., Tai Ping features the finest Cantonese..."

Oh, bad news: Owner Stephen Tong lost his brother in a shooting during an attempted robbery at the Tai Ping in 1974 !:

[Crim. Nos. 26693, 26782. Court of Appeals of California, Second Appellate District, Division Five. November 10, 1975.]

The incident occurred at the Tai Ping Restaurant in Los Angeles on April 8, 1974, at about 11 p.m. The murder victim was Joseph Tong, the attempted robbery victim was Beverly Tong, and the assault victim was Stephen Tong.

Frederick Brown, a liquor store owner who knew defendant as a customer, observed defendant and another man in the Tai Ping Restaurant at about 11 p.m. They walked past the table at which Brown and his wife were seated. A few minutes later, Brown heard some noise and observed defendant and two restaurant workers struggling near the entrance door. Defendant was wearing a jacket and a cap.

The victim of the attempted robbery, Beverly Tong, was working at the Tai Ping Restaurant as a hostess and a cashier. Joseph Tong, her uncle, and Stephen Tong, her father, were standing near her. At about 11 p.m., three black males wearing leather jackets and dark pants entered the restaurant and walked toward the restroom area. Then defendant came over to the register, took out a gun, and asked Beverly to take the money out of the cash register. At that point, defendant was standing between Joseph and Stephen. Beverly started taking the money out of the register. Defendant reached for it and a struggle followed, in which Stephen tried to get the weapon away from defendant. Joseph tried to help Stephen. The three men, still struggling, went through the door. Beverly heard one shot, followed by eight shots.

Meantime, defendant kept dragging Stephen and Joseph back toward the door. A shot was fired; at that time Stephen's hand was still on defendant's gun and the three of them were wrestling. After they got onto the patio, Stephen saw two men come out and point guns at their heads. They said "words to the effect, 'Hold it,'" and Stephen yelled to his brother, "Back up, Joe." Stephen and Joseph let defendant go and the three men, all armed, backed up a little bit and started shooting from a distance of about 10 feet. Stephen stood there frozen. After firing a volley of shots, the three men started running toward the parking area. Stephen heard about 10 or 12 shots. He saw the men jump over a wall. He then went back to the restaurant. Stephen did not see his brother. Joseph was found lying by a stairway, shot in the back. He died from the wound. [52 Cal.App.3d 951]

L.A. stories...So much for an "exciting" urban paradise :( I am only assuming this, but that kind of blow would be good enough reason for any owner to get the hell out of there to forget about it all...

WOW! That's terrible, so from 1960 to 74 it was probably pretty special. So Depressing.

But..!: More info from Bob at O.A. just came in:

"Actually we never heard from Steve since we supplied the job. We did do another job for him which was called Tokyo Kai Kan in Little Tokyo. Your research is very interesting."

Which brought me to find this interesting tidbit of culinary history:

"Tokyo Kaikan - Birthplace of the "California Roll"
At Tokyo Kaikan, Sushi Chef Mashita invented what is widely known today as the "California roll," possibly the first specialty roll in sushi cuisine.
According to Sushi Chef Imaizumi, who worked with Chef Mashita at Tokyo Kaikan, the California roll was created to substitute for a maki roll made with toro (fatty tuna). Because the fish was seasonal, the thought was to create a roll that had the similar texture and flavor as toro. By substituting avocado when the fish was out of season, Chef Mashita was able to recreate the roll, much to the pleasure of restaurant patrons."

...AND like the fate of many Tiki temples:

"Just an asphalt parking lot now, but plenty of good eating memories. I remember going to the tempura bar several times 30 years ago. I didn't know any better, but now I realize maybe it was the only tempura bar around. I remember they served you 12 huge tempura shrimp throughout the meal. There was also a teppan bar and sushi bar. Later on in life I used to go there to drink and meet my buddies--just like Cheers..."where everybody knows your name." I still see Ichi the bartender with the crew cut and glasses tending bar in Little Tokyo on 1st Street. Then I met a friend recently who's mom used to work there as a waitress which surprised me.
Few years before they closed TK's their restaurant group opened a place called Kitiyama in Newport Beach which still exists. I've never been there, but maybe some of the food is similar."

Anybody know that place in Newport Beach? At first I was thinking that perhaps it is still owned by the Tong family, but maybe Stephen Tong was just a partner in the company that owned both:

"International Marine Products, Inc. is a subsidiary of EIWA Group. In 1963 EIWA opened its first restaurant in the United States, named Tokyo Kaikan, in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles. This was the first truly authentic Japanese restaurant in America. Tokyo Kaikan is also the birthplace of the now famous California Roll. Presently, EIWA (owns and) operates the Kitayama Restaurant in Newport Beach, California.
In 1968, using their experiences as a fish wholesaler in Japan, EIWA has operated International Marine Products, Inc. in Los Angeles, a wholesaler of fish for Sushi. Since establishing this business in Los Angeles, We have opened branches in San Francisco (IMP Foods, Inc.), Las Vegas (IMP Nevada, Inc.), and Sydney, Australia.(IMP Seafood, Inc.)."

I am still excited bout finding out about the origin of the California roll, my son's favorite Sushi item. The California roll is the Mai Tai of culinary history: An American, in-authentic exotic delicacy that became a worldwide hit. :)

I think that's really neat, I love a good California roll and just like the Mai Tai it's been copied a billion times, made with bad ingredients and taken for granted. :(

Florian Gabriel had some involvement....

:left: WOW! :o

Thanks Bongofury!


On 2010-11-10 20:13, bongofury wrote:
Florian Gabriel had some involvement....

Bumping this content to the new page. Great work !! :)

Of course! I should have known...Gabe and Nakashima always worked together.

Thanks, bongofury!

This place just gets better all the time. Beautiful menu artwork.

...and I was just gonna go and sell that ol' dynasty volcano bowl at the Gilligan's event for cheap! Not anymore. :) Thanks Ron.

Hi everyone! This is my first post on this forum--I actually came across this thread while doing some online research on Tai Ping restaurant and my Grandfather Stephen Tong. I ofcourse was born decades after Tai Ping had already closed but had always been intrigued by the restaurant and wished I had been there to see it in operation. From the few stories I've heard my family tell, it sounded like a really fun place to dine and experience.

I am floored by the pictures and research some of you have done and the information you have come up with! I am particularly interested in the menu too as someone seems to have a copy of it which I have never seen before!

If any of you were customers at Tai Ping or even worked there before, I'd love to hear about your experiences or any stories you have to tell. My grandfather passed away last year and despite having many amazing years with him and hearing his stories of his many businesses in Los Angeles, there are still so many more I'm sure he did not get to share with me.

Welcome calisnoopy! I think you will find less actual customers of Tai Ping on this site than people who wished they had been that. This is a gathering place of fans of Polynesian style places in America. We swoon over lava rock, Tiki bridges, and Tiki bowls and mugs.
I am curious if you have any photos of the interior of Tai Ping. And also: When did your grandpa let go of the place? Did your grand-uncle's shooting have anything to do with it passing into other hands?

Pages: 1 21 replies