Madame Wu, California restaurateur to Hollywood’s stars, dead at 106

LOS ANGELES — Madame Sylvia Wu, whose iconic Southern California restaurant served the stars for decades, died Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported. She was 106.

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Wu’s restaurant, Madame Wu’s Garden, was a hotspot for Hollywood A-listers since it opened in 1959 in Santa Monica, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

She moved with her family from New York to Los Angeles during the 1950s and was appalled there was no authentic Cantonese food in the city, the entertainment outlet reported.

“Chop suey everywhere,” Wu told USA Today. “All you see are chop suey houses.”

Wu opened a 50-seat restaurant and moved to an 11,000-square-foot location on Wilshire Boulevard in January 1968, where it seated 300 and usually contained many of the cinema’s elite, KCET reported.

Elizabeth Taylor dined after the premiere of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and Robert Redford always asked for Booth 55, secluded in a dark corner, the Times reported. Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone celebrated their 46th anniversary, just weeks before the actor’s death in December 1974.

“Everybody in this town knows Madame Wu,” the late television host Merv Griffin once told the newspaper. “One of the dearest, sweetest, most elegant women I’ve ever known.”

Other stars who frequented the restaurant included Cary Grant, Mae West, Frank Sinatra, Mia Farrow, Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett, Walter Matthau, Paul Newman, Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

When she closed the restaurant in 1998, Wu immediately regretted the decision and opened Madame Wu’s Asian Bistro & Sushi, the Times reported.

Born Oct. 24, 1915, Sylvia Cheng grew up in Jiujiang, a city southwest of Shanghai, according to the newspaper. Her family moved to Shanghai and Hong Kong before World War II, eventually coming to the United States on a New York-bound ocean liner, the Times reported.

While working toward an education degree at Columbia University, she met King Yan Wu, a chemist who had recently graduated from MIT, according to the newspaper. They married and had three children before moving to Los Angeles.

King Yan Wu died in 2011, the Times reported. Madame Wu is survived by her two sons, George and Patrick, and numerous grandchildren, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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