168 East Gore Creek Drive | Vail | 970.476.7332 | yamasushivail.com
by Kirsten Dobroth
In a culinary landscape consisting of rich, alpine-inspired bites, Yama’s spot on Gore Creek Drive makes the case for a cozy evening spent with tastes from the Far East as opposed to the Wild West. Black and red accent lighting, modern décor, and a chic staff keep the place humming with an understated hipness that bumps along to the sounds of electronic jazz for dinner service each evening. And whatever the hole-in-the-wall eatery lacks in square footage, it makes up for with an innovative menu that balances some of the celebrated sushi spot’s signature plates with a rotating cast of new favorites, and a welcoming exclusivity that keeps reservations booked, and a seat at the bar a coveted spot.
Efrain Canales is the new head sushi chef, although he takes the helm after being behind the sushi bar since Yama’s inception, and with nearly 12 years of experience. Fresh fish comes Canales’ way from around the world, with a range of varieties flown in every other day. Along with his own creations, his winter menu sees a return of some old favorites, like the Summer in Vail Roll, which features snow crab, tuna, yellowtail, salmon, masago, cilantro and avocado wrapped in cucumber and topped with ponzu sauce — an intriguing, rice-less favorite. Other menu favorites making an appearance on this season’s menu include the Kumamoto oysters, and other specialty rolls like the Shiso Tuna: thinly sliced yellowfin is wrapped around shiso leaf, julienned cucumber, fresh grated wasabi root, and topped with a citrus garlic soy and scallion infused olive oil for a refreshingly potent flavor.
Chef Dimitri Sourvorin’s approaches the hot menu with the same take on fresh ingredients and innovative, Asian-inspired tastes as well, with an assortment of individual-sized and family-style plates for the table to choose from. If you’re looking to feed a group, start with an order of the Alaskan King Crab Claw, a menu favorite that’s served with a tempura shishito, micro wasabi greens, and topped with a truffle ponzu for a savory finish. If it all looks too good to choose, leave fate to chance and opt for Omakase — chef’s choice — for a tasting experience that should leave you with a full table and a content belly.
Wash it down with one of Yama’s specialty cocktails — the Ronin Moguls is a light, sake-infused choice that will keep you sipping — or share a flask of sake from the list, which features an extensive assortment of hot and cold sakes — the Living Jewel is a chilled house favorite. The drink list doesn’t skimp on wine or beer either, with an extensive list of whites and reds by the glass and bottle, and an assortment of specialty Japanese beers, too. And if your sweet tooth is calling at meal’s end, cap the experience with an order of mochi for the table. •
Small, hip, and modern
Summer in Vail Roll, Alaskan King Crab Claw