Dining

Review: Yellowbelly

first impression: This hip spot is a light-flooded glass space with a distinct L.A. vibe. The food, heavily sea-inspired, is inventive with Baja and island flavors dominating the early fall menu, Asian touches the winter one. The bar program mirrors those influences and is rum-centric. The place is owned by the duo behind nearby Retreat Gastropub on Sarah Street. They recruited two San Diego chefs, celeb-chef Richard Blais to “lead the culinary vision” and native St. Louisan Jason Gethin as exec chef. By our December visit, former sous chef Kate Wagoner had moved into the top spot.

must try:
» sea biscuits: $8; These come with butter blended with uni, or sea urchin roe. While I didn’t really detect that, the flaky, rich cheddar biscuits were stellar in every way.
» ahi tuna tostada: $14;  A standout dish of fresh, bright ahi cubes sitting on a thin, crisp tostado spread with avocado ‘crema’ and sweet soy sauce. Topping it was shredded cabbage tossed with seaweed, making every bite a deliciously crispy, creamy blend.
» crispy brussels sprouts: $9; Tasty, if a little oily. The deep-fried little cabbages were flavored with Thai chili and garlic and tossed with crushed peanuts and pork belly.
» thai cioppino plater: $40; This transforms the classic Italian seafood stew into a spicy treat with cilantro, jalapeno, lime and tomato broth dominating (the coconut milk was barely detectable). Meant for two to four diners, it was filled with large chunks of premium branzino and tuna, as well as bits of calamari and tiny sweet clams. It was delicious (if a little spicy) and filling—served with a mound of rice in the middle of a huge bowl.
» wagyu skirt steak: $28;  Plenty of flavor, but also too much fat. While those two are related, the meat could have been better trimmed with less oil in the marinade/sauce. On the plus side, it was tender and well-paired with a sweet soy Korean barbecue sauce. The dish came with Beef Fat French Fries—super tasty, crispy and sinful (another reason to moderate the fat in the steak).
» fish sandwich: $18;  Delicious with its puffy batter coating (on the oily side) and yummy pile-ons like avocado tartar sauce and pickled daikon. It comes on a gigantic Hawaiian bun and with those same Beef Fat Fries.
» grandma’s coconut cake: $6;  This avoids the pitfalls of so many over-the-top desserts. Its delicate flavor relied on coconut flakes, sour cream in the frosting and a dense white cake that brought joy with every bite.

wash it down:
The specialty drinks here are creatively concocted with island fruit juices flavored by strong ingredients like ginger, rhubarb, allspice, nori, corn, nutmeg and soy sauce. Our Helping Hands ($12) was well-balanced. Tequila dominated the drink, but the snap pea, lime juice and nori enhanced it in subtle ways.

overall
This is the ‘it’ place—lively and bustling with lines out the door (no reservations are taken, but you can use the NoWait app). I especially like the ‘island vibe,’ which feels fresh. As for the menu, most of what we tasted was exciting, blending ingredients like shoyu, nori, uni and passionfruit to offer diners something new—both with food and beverages. In the future, I plan to avoid the fried foods and focus on the menu’s more exciting flavor pairings.

4659 Lindell Blvd. 

the dish | Ahi tuna tostado: avocado, cabbage, seaweed

Recommended