After 13 years away, Ash Bailey didn’t know what to expect upon returning to her hometown of Milton.

“Kurt and I were kind of nervous coming back from London, which is one of the best cities in the world. There’s so much going on,” she tells Broadsheet. “But it’s been so much better than we thought. For the small population here, we’ve just got so many incredible places to eat.”

What was missing, though, was a bumping little bar. One serving Japanese snacks and natty wines; somewhere chill to sip a cocktail and listen to vintage vinyl. So, Ash and her husband Kurt Bailey decided to build one.

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Named after the couple’s kimono-wearing pug, Bar Yuki takes its cues from Tokyo’s record bars, serving konbini-style plates. There’s a distinct ’70s vibe to the joint, with orange tiling and reclaimed furniture. Toy robots and teenage turtles peer down from any shelving not occupied by blues and R’n’B records.

With the help of Jimmy Callaway – recipe developer and author of Cult Sando – they devised a short, sharp menu served mostly on fluffy slices of shokupan. Imported directly from Japan, Yuki’s milk bread is thick, white and super soft, perhaps slathered with curry ketchup and sporting an ultra-umami prawn patty made fresh in-house. There’s also a Wagyu version that Ash claims is the Rolls Royce of sandwiches. “I was pretty hesitant to put a $60 sandwich on the menu,” she says. “But people frickin’ go crazy for it.”

Non-sando snacks are available too: corn ribs doused in butter then dusted with a red-hot layer of togarashi, and scallop sashimi that swims in a white soy, chilli and citrus dressing. On Thursdays it’s ramen night, with a steaming vego bowl or the classic Yuki Ramen (a house-made chicken and pork shoyu broth with chashu pork, fresh dashi and plenty of toppings).

“Our menu is small: all hits, no filler,” says Ash. “Even our salad is a soba salad with ponzu sauce – it’s fresh. You won’t just get the salad to be healthy, you’ll get it because it’s fuckin’ yum.”

The liquid offering at Bar Yuki is equally strong, with a mix of drops from here and abroad, plus a sharp cocktail list. House wine, lovingly named Yuki Juice, is made by Adelaide’s Golden Child. Then there are the Jura-esque wines from Defialy in Macedon – made with skin contact in stainless steel and wild fermented for a complex perfume and bright acidity – which are poured alongside Eric Goypieron’s savagnin, an example of the real thing.

The Kyoto Old Fashioned features a green-tea-infused whisky with a dash of maple syrup, and the Yuzu Margarita (tequila, yuzu, Cointreau and agave) has a smoky, salty edge.

Alongside the good food and good booze, of course, are very good vibes, supplied not only by friendly staff but by regular jazz afternoons, late-night DJs and, more recently, a roster of live bands. So while Bar Yuki might be about three hours’ drive south of Sydney, it’s substantially closer than Osaka. Road trip, anyone?

Bar Yuki
23 Wason Street, Milton

Hours:
Thu 5pm–9.30pm
Fri 5pm–11.30pm
Sat 3pm–11.30pm
Sun 3pm–7pm

bar-yuki.com
@bar_yuki_