--- Written and Photos by WX
As a conflicted carnivore torn between being somewhat paranoid about developing anaemia and being unable to absolve the guilt of killing animals for personal indulgence (yes, I consider eating meat an indulgence), I've often contemplated what the step into the vegetarian world would feel like. It's places like Yulli's that really spark hope in myself that I would perhaps one day take the difficult leap successfully. Eating meat is almost like a nicotine addiction - except they don't make patches for it.
Alas, I'm too dramatic for my own good.
Yulli's is situated on the busy Crown Street in Surry Hills, next to the White Horse across the road from Clock Hotel. The place bustles with grooviness (yes, that's really the only way to describe it), and the warmth and artsy decor could only be described as being evocative of a certain liberalism.
One quick glance at the menu, and you instantly think that if it were possible for food to possess a political compass, the offerings at Yulli's could only be described as left-wing. In fact, I would go so far to say that they would be the appropriation of Bob Brown ideology, in food form.
On the other hand, just as one would always ooh and aah at Asian-Mediterranean mixed race babies, the fusionesque menu at Yulli's attracts the same sort of entrigued and misguided "so-does-it-look-more-like-the-mother-or-father?" reaction.
The service here is perfectly casual, but attentive and informative. There is little claustrophobic upper-class snobbery and everyone is seemingly down to earth and non-pretentious. The atmosphere is friendly, warm and laid back. If the restaurant was a canvas, this place would be a coherent and expressive masterpiece.
Baby Burrito Plate (spicy beans, sour cream, salsa, avocado and tiny tortillas) - $15.50
First up was the Baby Burrito Plate. The bean salsa was exquisitely tangy and mildly spicy. The tortillas were as soft and warm as a baby's bum. Definitely more-ish, in a non-weird-pedophilic way.
Mixed Chip Plate (sweet potato, taro, lotus root, beetroot and spanish onion) - $12.50
FW was the Mixed Chip Plate's number one fan. The dish came with 3 dips - rosemary salt, tomato salsa and dill yoghurt. I only managed to get a taste of the taro and lotus root chips with the yoghurt and salsa dips. I was an instant fan of the taro as it was fragrant and really crisp. The lotus root was also very crispy, but lacked the originality and distinctiveness of its own flavours.
Eggplant Involtini (grilled eggplant stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and spinach, topped with lemongrass and tomato sauce, served on roti) - $17.50
The involtinis were my absolute favourite for the night. They were cheesy, tangy and exploding with fresh flavours of basil and tomato. In the middle were perfectly grilled eggplants which oozed with flavour and sweetness. The roti base was crispy and mildy sweet which provided a beautifully elegant balancing act against the tanginess of tomatoes.
Salt & Pepper Tofu (served with a green papaya salad) - $15.50
Another winner for the night was the green papaya salad served with the salt and pepper tofu. It was peanutty, crispy and once again, tangy but not the slightest bit overpowering. The salt and pepper tofu was nice, but could have done with a little more of both salt and pepper.
Vegetable Sambal (fresh seasonal vegetables, stir-fried Indonesian style, served with jasmine rice) - $15.50
Next up was the vegetable sambal. The sambal itself was fresh, spicy and bursting with flavour. The rice was fragrant and provided a good accompaniment.
Grilled Haloumi Toasted Bagel (served with avocado, grilled mushroom, caramelised onion and hummus with chips) - $14.50
Haloumi featured on quite a few of the dishes on the menu. We eventually settled for the Grilled Haloumi toasted bagel. The waiter kindly warned us that this was a dish that was difficult to share, but we nevertheless attempted to do the undoable. The haloumi was absolutely wonderfully grilled and nicely chewy in texture.
Spring Rolls (with fresh vegetables and served with a light sweet chilli sauce) - $8.50
Spring rolls were part of the second round of ordering which occurred later in the meal. The fillings were beautifully delicate in flavour, but quite peppery. I was sad to only eat a half - that's just cruel teasing.
Pad Thai Linguine (with fresh seasonal vegetables) - $16.50
Lastly we all shared a serve of pad thai, which was actually one of the more fascinating dishes. The use of linguine was an interesting substitute. Furthermore, I could swear to God that I tasted Chinese pickled vegetables (Zha Cai 榨菜) in the dish. Whatever it was, it gave a wonderfully crunchy texture to the sweet and spicy dish. Definitely food for thought - in an abstract sense.
Overall we had a great evening in Surry Hills, finishing off with a box of cupcakes from Cupcakes on Pitt. (Yes okay, Sparkle was across the road, but I think it was closed at the time).
My verdict? Definitely recommended.
417 Crown Street
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9319 6609