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Byron Shire
October 5, 2022

Yoko’s Bistro at the Ex-Services Club

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Yoko’s Bistro manager Damo knows how to treat his staff – sweeping head chef Nongnuch off her feet at the annual Orchid Society show, currently in the Mullum Ex-Services Club.

Photo and story: Simon Haslam

The Mullum Ex-Services Club members might be a pretty tough crowd to please even if you’re an experienced chef. It’s a community hub for the real locals, and bingo ladies, it’s the place where you might hold a wake for a dear friend, or watch Laurie Mills scoop the pool again at the annual orchid show. There are members who’ve been coming for decades who know what they like, but there’re also the younger generations, people looking to ease into their new community, and the young families who’ve just shifted from the city looking for somewhere that’s open early.

And, because the restaurant is in the club, you can order not only cocktails from the friendly bar staff, but also there’s a range of wines at really good prices, especially for members such as myself (finally, you don’t have to bring your card to prove you’re a member at the bar, they just look you up on the computer).

Damo, who with his partner James opened the Yoko’s Bistro at the club a couple of months ago, isn’t himself an accomplished chef, as he’s more a front-of-house sort of guy, but with a chronic shortage of staff he found himself doing everything when the doors first opened, and quite a bit of it the wrong way! ‘The first month was pretty bad,’ says Damo ruefully, ‘whether it was the food, the service, the menu, the prices, or just me, we pretty much had a complaint about everything! We didn’t have suppliers lined up, we didn’t have staff, we didn’t have a chef. There was a time there when I thought about throwing in the towel. 

‘I’m 46 years old and have a basic bar menu … luckily, I found Nongnuch, who is the founder of Crabbes Creek Thai – she’s now brought the Thai flair to the menu with her masalas, green paw-paw salad and barramundi, chili jam cashew nut chicken and, according to our customers, the best pad Thai in Mullum.’ 

Damo doesn’t seem like the sort of guy to let adversity get him down for long. When Yoko, the Shih Tzu dog after which the bistro is named, had a stroke Damo took six months off work to nurse her back to health, and he’s quick to recognise the support the Club board afforded him when he was struggling. ‘They supported us to find accommodation right nearby work, which wasn’t easy,’ he says, as the bistro is open six days a week from 5pm. ‘Now, we’re pleased to have sorted out local suppliers – Scratch makes our bread, we get our supplies from the farmers market, Byron Bay Meats supply the cold cuts. We use Edens Landing, Santos, all the local people where we can.’

The bistro has also formed a partnership with the Mullum High School careers adviser to give school leavers experience in the industry, and Damo was quick to sing the praises of the three young locals who were working on the night we visited – they were helpful, friendly and knew their stuff. Damo likes being part of a community here in Mullum, and was quick to find how he could help with food vouchers for those doing it tough after the floods. ‘Actually, I read about it in The Echo,’ Damo says, ‘that the Hub across the road was looking for people to help with food vouchers, cash, anything, so we gave them a ring.’

From what we tried last week, and the number of people in the restaurant, he must have won a few of the Ex-Services crowd over: at a very low price we got a really delicious potato and leek soup, nothing like what you’d knock up at home, with a really nice garlic bread and a beautiful little apple crumble with separate custard and ice-cream in little tubs – delicious, from Damo’s ‘bar’ style menu. We paired that with tofu chili jam cashew nut vegetables and also King Prawn stir fry with oyster mushrooms from the Asian menu (which isn’t on the website, it’s only on a board at the club but it has a lot of choice), both of which were great. 

yokos.com.au 

Ph 6684 2533
58 Dalley St, Mullumbimby
Lunch Tues-Sun.
Dinner Mon-Sat (Mon Thai only).
Closed Sun nights. 


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