If you speak Cantonese, you may notice something interesting at Yan. The name means “smoke”, which is odd, because there’s not much of a smoking tradition in Cantonese cuisine; generally, that’s an American thing.
“We thought smoked meats would be a good neighbourhood restaurant; something really tasty and casual. But there's no point doing American barbeque, no one does it like Americans do,” says Narada Kudinar, co-owner with chef Raymond Lim (both also own John Montagu and used to own the now-closed Ms Murray). “So if we're doing smoked, why not do something influenced by our Chinese background.”
That translates to juicy, cumin-rubbed lamb ribs smoked and topped with chimichurri (with chilli, soy, white pepper and sesame instead of the usual ingredients); pork belly smoked and grilled with a kabayaki glaze (what you usually find on Japanese eel).
But not everything is smoked, nor does the decor reflect the smoked or Chinese themes. It’s casual: dark timber furniture (wishbone chairs, of course), ceiling box lamps and a long bar with tiles coloured like tropical lagoons.
Kudinar and Lim recommend ordering a few mains to share (a grilled, 7+ striploin and mussels done Singaporean-chilli-crab style are the non-smoked options) and getting an equal number of sides, such as the Singaporean chilli-crab-style mussels with homemade bao; Sichuan-pepper calamari with powdered lime; and a pear and cucumber “slaw” tossed with sweet chilli and vinegar. It’s reminiscent of cold salads from central China. Until Yan’s license is approved it will pour appropriately sweet and tart lychee-and-lime and plum-and-green-tea sodas.
Desserts such as a deconstructed lime pavlova with ginger, pandan jelly and lychee ice-cream is perfect antidotes to the meat dishes. A coconut filled with coconut jelly and ice cream is similarly refreshing despite being bravely coconut-heavy (courtesy of a complete lack of dairy).