Like the best of us, I’ve waged my own personal war against vegetables in the past. Some, like me, predominantly during that prepubescent stage where food on the table was declined on the basis of being “weird-looking” (this was brinjal in particular for me). I grew out of this stage fairly quickly, spurred on by my maternal grandmother, who never asked anything of me other than to be a person who could handle their spicy food and also consume vegetables. I’m thankful for this, and not just for all the obvious reasons for why we should be eating more greens. Dining in Sydney continues to push boundaries away from the throng and one such movement is the growing number of restaurants that champion vegetables in their hero dishes. To get a more thorough understanding of this, it only makes sense to venture into Yellow’s den. Located in Potts Point, they were trading like any other omnivorous restaurant, until turning vegetarian just over two years ago.
Our first touchpoint as dining guests is navigating the nightmare that is, to find parking in Potts Point. All restaurants in that locale should flag some good streets to park on their website or at the very least, inform guests ahead of time to wear comfortable shoes because your car will likely be in the next suburb over, by the time you find a vacant space. However, once settled inside, it’s quite a comfortable space. The kind you could while away hours in, nursing a tipple and good conversation.
It’s a Saturday night which means compulsory degustation night. We chose the five-course ($75) over the seven course ($95), hoping that it would be a reprise away from being overtly gluttonous, but let’s face it, it’s still five plates of food we’re inhaling.
Turnip + Tahini + Black Sesame
To begin, we’re introduced to this playful starter that was all about contrasts. The contrast between fresh, crisp turnip and the earthiness of the crumb. Between the tanginess and a tinge of sweetness from the black sesame. And even more so in representation, for a fine establishment to be serving what visually appears to be turnip freshly dug from the ground.
Stracciatella + Celeriac + Fermented Banana
Our first course comes through and I thought it looked a lot like some kind of sweet dessert quill, plus a generous dusting of cocoa powder to boot. I couldn’t have been more wrong, reading a description that boasts wafer thin celeriac sitting a top a bed of what must be an interpretation of stracciatella. Each mouthful has a nice interplay of crunch and cream, and you can just detect a hint of banana-esque sweetness. I’m reminded of crisp salad leaves juxtaposed against Japanese goma dressing.
Butternut Pumpkin + Miso Brown Butter + Saltbush
I didn’t expect the meal to peak so early on, but this second course was probably my favourite of the night. At a glance, it looks like a giant ravioli parcel. Cutting through it reveals a chunk of pumpkin, smooth like velvet, as though its entire constitution was made up of sheets of cream. The mouthfeel to it makes one think that soft, gentle cooking techniques were applied to get the pumpkin into such a delicate state. Blanketing what I am now referring to as ‘sacred pumpkin’, is a sauce has an umami miso brown butter base. You can potentially detect cumin or curry powder. Above that, saltbush, which you really can’t hate when, if nothing else, it looks like funky spinach from the Jurassic period. Everything about this dish looks like, tastes like and feels like Autumn.
Eggplant + Corn + Black Garlic
I will always perk up at the mention of eggplant, a testament to how far I’ve come on my journey to appreciating vegetables. This slice of eggplant was not unlike the pumpkin. Both, again, have such a soft calm to them that’s hard to describe, like tenderness personified. This one was with a generous dusting of crushed peanuts, a nice textural element to the dish. I couldn’t really detect much black garlic but I did find the broth of ginger and rice vinegar a tad too sour for this to be truly enjoyable.
Jerusalem Artichoke + Goat’s Yoghurt + Malt
Our meal approaches crescendo with our fourth course and final savoury dish of the night. The waiter describes it as an artichoke tempura but it doesn’t seem to be wheat flour, rather, rice flour which gives it that shiny crystal-esque sheen to the bubbles formed on the surface. Breaking through the skin rewards you with perfectly cooked artichoke, a strong reminder that I need to have more meals in my life that feature it.
Great salad, made better by the parsnip purée underneath it. An ideal accompaniment to our main course.
Sheep’s Yoghurt Sorbet + Blueberry + Liquorice
Yellow is showcasing a near perfect batting score by this juncture but sadly, this is where the romance ends for me. There are a few hard rules in my guide to dining out and anything with liquorice is a definite no to my palate. It’s really unfortunate that this is the case because the sorbet is creamy and the blueberries with its coulis are sweet yet tart, but I can’t get past that lingering medicinal taste. If you like liquorice, you’ll love this!
Yellow has been wearing vegetables on their sleeves for the last two years. Previously heralded as a ballsy move, it’s one that has certainly reaped rewards. If their ultra tasty food wasn’t already a giveaway, the restaurant was happily packed even by the time we left. There is something incredibly tender about the food here. It makes both your stomach and your heart feel full. And this is something both vegetarians and non-vegetarians should be rejoicing for.