Last year, Yellow in Potts Point got reclassified as a vegetarian restaurant. Adam Wolfers and Brent Savage kept the brunch menu intact (bacon and its friends got protected status), but switched dinners to be all-vego and it was fantastic. I went three or four times in 2016, and each time, the restaurant was more crowded (even on Mondays, famously everyone’s chosen night for self-imposed house arrest) and the food was all powered up on flavour. The chefs would come at each dish from many angles (maybe this would be pickled, maybe that would be fermented, maybe that would have salty koji laced throughout), but the full effect was panoramic.
It shouldn’t have been surprising – ever since Brent opened Bentley, his vegetarian game has been A-grade and has translated brilliantly across to Monopole and Yellow, too.
Recently, Time Out asked me to review the 2.0 version of Yellow – seeing as Adam Wolfers had left (for pop-up glory at Casoni and Bar Brosé) and Chris Benedet was now in charge of the control decks, with ultimate oversight by Brent. And the brunch menu had given up its bacon dependence – the whole restaurant is now fully committed to being vegetarian-only.
Guess what? The new power-sharing arrangement has worked out truly well. As I write in the review, Brent and Chris are “doing a fine job protecting the restaurant’s permanent record. Yellow is as great as ever”.
In it, I cover everything from the knockout eggplant “steak” with its popcorn-like almond dukkah to the smoked potatoes with brown butter, mushroom broth and chestnut puree. I didn’t even get to fit in the baby corn with miso malt crumb – this snack is powered by so much savoury punch, it even elevates the plain silky husk it comes in – or the crunchy Jerusalem artichokes that do such a good job at undermining your confidence in how much you love potatoes (nutty and super-assertive in their deliciousness, the ‘chokes do a convincing test run at conquering all root vegetables).
And to fit the theme, the wine list is majority unfined and unfiltered, so vegan-friendly and also a touch lighter than the typical offering. Although, of course, there is nothing typical about Yellow at all – and that is its superpower.
Speaking of vegetarian and vegan food, I’ve been assigned this “beat” for SBS Food and I’m really enjoying it.
So far, I’ve filed a story about ex-vegetarian chefs who are making sure you don’t have to face a boring mushroom risotto or other afterthought vego dish when they feed you (for Mary’s Jake Smyth, the meat-free cliche he was sick of was sun-dried frittata: “It was almost a relief when I became vegan, to be able to eliminate sun-dried frittata from my life,” he says).
I like Jake’s attitude, by the way.
Creating genuinely delicious meat-free food (instead of low-priority dishes “to keep the vegos quiet”) has “been super important to us from the start”, he says. “Vegetarian food ain’t just for vegetarians!”
Hence, Mary’s has that awesome garlic-and-herb confit mushroom burger and the CBD outlet started recently serving a fried cauliflower that’s made exactly like their fried chicken – it’s dunked in buttermilk brine, coated in spiced flour, deep-fried and delivered with smokin’ hot sauce.
I also wrote a story about the experimental ways chefs are pushing vegan and vegetarian food further. I especially love how Phil Wood cut dried shiitake into these spiralling, long ribbons, dredged the mushrooms in corn-flour, deep-fried them, then braised it all further with miso caramel and a dash of chilli and black vinegar. The resulting creation, amazingly, tastes a lot like squid.
And just up, my new story on how you can actually find great vegetarian restaurants in the most unlikely places – establishments famous for their meat and seafood. One of the best meals I’ve had recently was at Firedoor, a place known for a dry-aged steak that’s made Massimo Bottura cry.
And I am keen to recreate this dish that Porteno’s Elvis Abrahanowicz is doing at his neighbouring Wyno Bar. He lightly salts zucchini, leaves it overnight to drain of moisture, then rinses it off and eats it as is.
“It’s just incredible,” he says. “It tastes like it’s been lightly blanched. It’s got that awesome texture, almost like pasta.”
Photography courtesy of Yellow and Mary’s.