Yama Sushi located on Gore Creek Drive in Vail
Special to the Weekly
If you go ...
What: Yama, an energized sushi lounge.
Where: 168 East Gore Creek Drive, Vail.
Cost: Sushi and small plates $7-$24.
Signature dish: Alaskan King Crab Claw.
More information: Call 970-476-7332 or visit www.yamasushivail.com.
Editor’s note: This article was previously published as a paid feature in EAT, a compendium of restaurant snapshots featuring the best in Vail Valley dining. Look for it on newsstands everywhere.
In a place where it may seem like meat and potatoes may dominate the dining options, Yama Sushi artfully transforms your typical restaurant experience into a Japanese, palate-rewarding phenomenon. Discretely located on Gore Creek Drive, Yama’s menu is anything but humble — especially when you feast your eyes on the many signature dishes created by Executive Chef and Sushi Chef Efrain Canales and Kitchen Chef Michael Vesco. Together, they expertly fuse traditional Japanese cuisine with innovative flavoring.
“Over my 12 years of being a sushi chef, I have worked with some very talented people that have taught me the essence of true Japanese cuisine,” Canales says. “Since becoming the executive chef, I’ve used this knowledge to create a diverse and original menu, unlike anything else Vail has to offer.”
Before arriving at Yama, be prepared to relish a multi-course meal, each building upon flavors that complement one another. This winter season, Canales will bring to Yama several unique types of fish that are not available in Vail during the summer and will incorporate those into his menu specials. For example, Shimagi, which is in the amber jack family, and Tai, a Japanese red snapper, may be a part of Canales’ citrusy, signature ceviche, a special that he will serve throughout the season.
Yama has continued to evolve and improve upon the restaurant’s early successes, including customizing the menu to reflect a more traditional Japanese dining experience.
“We moved our kitchen menu to smaller plates that are more complementary to the shared nature of a sushi meal,” said Canales.
To some, the idea of sashimi might sound daring, but, Yama’s Japanese delicacy is not your typical raw-fish-on-a-plate fare. Canales gives each delectable bite a depth that your palate isn’t expecting. Two of Canales’ favorite sashimi dishes are the Saikyo Hoisin Yellowtail (thinly sliced yellowtail stuffed with blonde miso, hoisin, cilantro and shredded daikon) and the Shiso Tuna (thinly sliced yellowfin tuna wrapped with shiso leaf, julienned cucumber and fresh grated wasabi root). Both, in their own right, will melt in your mouth as you experience the sashimi’s rich, smooth flavoring in each bite.
Yama is also known for its unique sushi rolls. Canales suggests trying the Yen Yen Roll (spicy tuna, mango, cilantro, topped with yellowtail, avocado and serrano) and the Boom Boom Roll (yellowtail, wasabi tobiko and avocado topped with spicy tuna). On the lighter side, the Summer in Vail roll boasts a fresh, clean taste with snow crab, tuna, yellowtail, salmon, cilantro and avocado wrapped in cucumber and accompanied by a ponzu dipping sauce.
Yama is more than just a place to eat. Locals and visitors can often find the elements of jazz, soul, funk and disco wafting through the crimson-colored walls, conversations about the bluebird skies and favorite runs on the mountain and, of course, the delicious food being served.