It seems it's all the rage at the moment. Some of our top places are going completely vegetarian, or even vegan. As a long-established meat eater I have to say I responded to this news with a slightly sceptical scoff. I mean, I have no problem with anyone who wishes to be vegan or vegetarian, quite the contrary, but I wasn't convinced by all of these places jumping off the meat wagon. One of the most acclaimed of these is the Potts Point restaurant, Yellow and they have really been making some noise, so much so that I was beginning to take notice - a seed began to grow.
Pondering it with a few pals, I mused that for these new and trendy establishments it wasn't impressive for vegetarians to love their food, that's not enough. The real challenge is impressing a meat eater and for that matter, not just any meat eater - this meat eater. I am fussy, especially when it comes to vegetables (my mother can attest to twenty three years of reluctant grimaces). My grandmother even took to hiding my vegetables (rather expertly) in other foods and under layers of cheese. Vegetable subterfuge has become a Blanco tradition. Needless to say, I am NOT easily swayed when it comes to the leafy and the green.
So one warm Wednesday evening, I took the plunge at Yellow with one of my good vegetarian friends, Jane. I was the first to arrive and I walked in, looking around - so far, I liked it. The ambience was intimate and the lights were dim, their napkins were even wrapped in a small string with a tag labelled 'yellow'. Sometimes, it's the little touches that make the biggest impression. However, I was not to be swayed on the ambience alone, there are so many places like this popping up these days that the food really needs to speak volumes.
Perusing the menu, I knew I couldn't go so horrifically far out of my vegetable comfort zone that I would never eat another one again, so I played it relatively safe - some potatoes, some leek, I thought I could survive that relatively unscathed. However, Jane decided to 'squash' my plans for safe choices by suggesting we try the popular spaghetti squash. It was meant to be one of their best, so I agreed (smiling in only semi-sincere agreement) and thought I could at least broaden my healthy horizons just this once. Having placed our order with the pleasant waitress, I took another sip of my wine, awaiting our dishes with equal parts fascination, anticipation and dread.
The first dish of charred leek, pressed curd and black garlic came out and my scepticism remained intact. It seemed like a rather bare looking plate with a slab of leek atop some curd, all slumped to one side. I knew the pressed curd (a particular favourite of mine) would be a highlight, but I thought the presentation could have been a bit more appealing. Luckily, however, it didn't remain on the plate for long - I took a bite and found I was pleasantly surprised. The leek and pressed curd worked excellently together and the black garlic was the perfect addition to tie it all together. The flavours were strong and, in my eyes, made up for the less than superb presentation. So far, I was pleased.
The second dish was the spaghetti squash and I awaited it with complete trepidation. Honestly, I wasn't even completely sure what it was at this point, but I was soon put out of my misery. I was thrilled to see that the presentation had been taken up a notch as the spaghetti squash became a beautiful bowl which housed the egg yolk in the middle. Each taking our share back to our plates, the flavours were beautiful. The persimmon was very subtle, but blended well with the squash and yolk. The seeds also added another element to the dish as they produced a welcome crunch. I was so impressed with the flavours of this dish, I was beginning to rethink my nemesis, had I been wrong all these years?
However, I wasn't completely blown away until the last savoury item we tried. The potatoes, pistachio and salt bush was my absolute favourite of the evening, turning a seemingly simple dish into a plate I wanted to pick up and lick clean. The presentation was once again minimal, but that didn't matter in the slightest because it was gone in moments. I am incredibly partial to salty flavours and found that the saltbush was a welcome twist on the much-loved classic. The pistachios added a crunchy texture that put the experience over the top and which made me re-evaluate my favourite way of eating potatoes (fries may just have been knocked off the top of the list). Needless to say, I was impressed.
To round out the meal, we simply had to have dessert and it certainly rose to the occasion. Of course, dessert is never usually done with meat (unless Rachel Green is cooking trifle), so this was an easier task for them to undertake under the vegetarian banner. It was excellent to see that their innovation extended to these dishes as well and especially our choice of the raspberry sorbet, hazelnut and buttermilk. The buttermilk was served as shavings atop the sorbet and hazelnut and tasted absolutely heavenly. The hazelnut and buttermilk were silky soft and much more subtle compared to the bold raspberry, but worked well in tandem. It was a magical finish to a surprising evening and we couldn't even finish it all as we were so full.
I have never been quite so pleasantly surprised by a restaurant in all my years. Of course this has to do with low expectations, going in there expecting to be disappointed but finding that I had been unfairly misjudging vegetables my whole life. I am not yet a convert, one fabulous restaurant could not sway me so, but I am far more open to the possibility. I must say that the prices do seem a touch high when you consider you're paying for vegetables, but the innovation is well worth the visit - at least once. If they can convert this fussy foodie into a lover of you can't use this, you didn't eat legumes…, there's a good chance they could impress you too. So in my final consideration of the exciting Yellow, I say to all the vegetable haters out there - I've bean thinking it's time to turnip the love for vegetables, lettuce give them a chance - you might think it's corny, but it's about thyme we did.