Three vegan meals

It’s weird how not long after the surge in American barbecue’s popularity came the next massive food trend of veganism. One minute we’re all about hickory-smoked pulled pork, the next we’re all cashew cheese and seitan steaks. Animal welfare dominates the arguments for this lifestyle choice with environmental concerns about cattle grazing and other intensive animal farming practices a strong second.

With such a fast-growing market comes greater sophistication and choice.

Recent cookbook releases also feature loads of well-produced vegan titles and it’s easier than ever to get a decent plant-based meal without resorting to those mock meat Asian places. With such a fast-growing market comes greater sophistication and choice. Here’s what we found in Sydney.

Davidson plum and persimmon crumble at Yulli’s (Photo: Stephanie Clifford-Smith)

Yulli’s

This is clever food. No wild excursions into fake cheese or meat, just a deep understanding of ingredients and texture to compose satisfying vegan dishes. Think Vietnamese pancakes with chilli, crisp tofu skin, king mushrooms and blood plum sauce (AUD $13.50). Or chewy fried sesame balls filled with pickled radish and roasted peanuts (AUD $16.50). The Davidson plum and persimmon crumble (pictured) with coconut ice cream is up there with the best buttery versions (AUD $14.50). Real cheese renders a few dishes vegetarian but with vegan options like these, there’s no need to go there.

Address: 417 Crown Street, Surry Hills. Telephone: +61 2 9319 6609

O Bar and Dining (Photo: Stephanie Clifford-Smith)

O Bar and Dining

View loving vegans now have somewhere fancy to eat. The revolving restaurant atop Australia Square has introduced a ‘hedonistic’ vegan menu (2 courses AUD $90, 3 courses AUD $115), which is a great effort but is so far producing patchy results. Burnt onion dashi, silken raw almond milk tofu, marinated wood ear, sea lettuce, puffed red quinoa was good, savoury and covered all textural bases nicely. Less successful was a carnival clash of flavours in chickpea fermented freekeh, sweet garlic and wild rice crisp (pictured) with a lemon jam overwhelming everything else. Brazil nut shavings looking temptingly like parmesan sadly tasted of nothing. Subsequent courses continued along these lines showcasing great produce, polite spicing and occasionally puzzling flavour combos. Out of season figs let dessert down until we were urged to try the non-vegan soufflé, which was a triumph by any measure.

Address: Level 47 Australia Square, 264 George Street, Sydney. Telephone: +61 2 9247 9777

Heirloom tomato and zucchini lasagne at Alibi (Photo: Stephanie Clifford-Smith)

Alibi Bar

A big part of the marketing behind this new vegan restaurant is how slim and youthful its 53-year-old owner, Matthew Kenney, looks. This is one of many vegan businesses the LA-based chef has internationally and Sydney seems to have welcomed it. The nine-course tasting menu (AUD $65) features all the most interesting-sounding dishes from the a la carte one. If you can overlook the idiocy of serving three little kimchi dumplings to two people you’ll enjoy them enough to argue over who gets the third one. Presentation and technique are good, but that was all some dishes had going for them. Smoked hummus was thick and stodgy, which is more troubling given there’s no need to compromise to make it vegan. Perhaps easier to understand is the disappointment of cashew raclette because it’s hard to imagine it ever achieving the heights of a real cheese one. Kelp noodle cacio e pepe worked brilliantly with sugar snap peas, sprouts and dehydrated olives despite bearing little resemblance to its Roman namesake, and an heirloom tomato and zucchini lasagne (pictured) ticked all the boxes. A clever take on tiramisu to finish helped fade the memory of the blah courses.

Address: 6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo. Telephone: +61 2 9331 9000

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