Quick, hot and tasty. That's what Yama's all about, says Michael Ryan. "We're all about cooking the sort of food we wanted to eat when we went to the snow with family or a group of friends," Ryan says. "The last thing you want in that situation is fine dining."
Ryan is best known for his acclaimed fine-diner Provenance, in the Victorian high-country town of Beechworth. Last year he and his wife, Jeanette Henderson, teamed up with long-time friends Hamish Nugent and Rachel Reed from Tani Eat & Drink in Bright to open Yama, a pan-Asian eatery in the ski town of Mount Hotham. "We wanted to create a completely different experience at Yama to our other restaurants," he says. "We're re-creating the casual style of dining we like in Melbourne, where there's no set pattern to the meal and you just order as you go, sharing dishes full of big punchy flavours. Most of the dishes only have three or four elements, so they're relatively simple to cook."
While Ryan has a long-held interest in Japan and its food - his menu at Provenance is heavily influenced by the cuisine - and Yama takes its name from the Japanese word for mountain, it's not Japanese. There are nods to Japan in, say, a mash-up dish of prawn toast with elements of okonomiyaki and katsu, or the miso butter that coats baked kipfler potatoes, but the vegetable bibimbap, chockfull of spicy kimchi, and the Taiwanese fried chicken speak more to fun, easyeating Asian flavours from all over the region.
"It really is a collection of our travels through Asia," says Ryan. The offer is rounded out with booze-friendly bar snacks such as ikan bilis, steamed pork buns and spicy lamb Xi'an burgers. "Every night around nine we pull a curtain across the middle of the restaurant to divide the restaurant from the bar," Ryan says. "The bar has a great cocktail list.
"It's the sort of place we'd like to go and have a drink, and the sort of drinks we want to drink. It's pretty selfish, really. Depending on who's around, it becomes an intimate little after-party."
Big-flavoured, rib-sticking Asian-inspired sharing dishes are perfectly pitched to the snow-bound crowd, but if you can't make it to Mount Hotham during the snow season, feast on the recipes here, straight off this season's Yama menu.
Try these recipes by Yama Kitchen & Bar at home:
Yama Kitchen & Bar, lot 1F Great Alpine Rd, Mount Hotham (Hotham Central), Vic, (03) 5759 3456, yama.net.au
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