If you land at Yedra at the right moment in the afternoon, sometime a little after 2pm once the lunch rush has begun to evaporate, everything begins to fall into place. The shuffling of take-out orders being delivered by foot to nearby offices, the small clusters of others waiting to carry their food out, the sound of keyboards typing and friends giggling begins to quiet, and the hominess of this Colegiales outpost begins to shine under the blistering midday sun.
Rosario Mercau, the matriarch of this modern lunch counter, likely knows your name. She can probably guess what you are going to order, too. You, likely know her name, as well, and you most definitely know the name of the restaurant’s dog, Fiona, whose introduction may very likely have increased business. “She gets stopped all over the neighborhood. Some people stop by just to say hello to Fiona. They don’t even order anything,” Mercau jokes.
In the back of the house is Marina Bartolomé leading a small army of cooks in her cramped kitchen. A controlled chaos of vegetable burgers, tacos, wraps and tartas come flying off of an oven top equipped with just six burners before being paired with large sticks of roasted potato or bright green salads. Stacked along the countertop is a mise-en-place of fermented lemons, vegan mayonnaises and onions cured in turmeric until they look like candied orange.
The duo met in a photography class years back. At the time, Mercau was working in production while Bartolomé hopped around different kitchens. The two dabbled in vegetarianism, but quickly returned to vegetable forward eating with pops of meat. Together, they opened Yedra, named after a bushy vine that climbs, embraces and protects whatever it latches on to; it is also believed to represent a female power.
If you arrive for breakfast, Bartolomé might feed you crisped corn waffles topped with a gooey fried egg, creamy black beans and charred tomato, or a bowl of in-house made yogurt with their mix of crunchy granola and whichever fruits shone brightest at the vegetable stand. You could pair it with a cup of coffee but you’d be better off starting the day with a strong dose of kefir or juices made with fermented lemons.
Come around lunch time and you’ll be greeted with daily and weekly specials. You’d be smart to come this week and order the mushroom tacos — a mix of oyster, red pine and button mushrooms are pummeled with heat until the point that they are just about to lose their chew and stacked atop a handmade corn tortilla from Sol de Maíz. The earthy funk is topped with crunchy cabbage and slices of slightly sweet soft carrot, vegan mayonnaise with stripes of garlic and citrus and crowned with onion cured in turmeric that looks like orange peel and tastes slightly of a wasabi tinged mustard. I could probably live a full week only consuming these tacos. Beg them to add it to the regular menu, as I have.
There is also a take on the Chinese baozi, or steamed rolls, stuffed with sauteed vegetables. On the last occasion, they were crammed full of sauteed cabbage and mushrooms. A small bowl of sour wasabi mayonnaise comes with the order but be sure to ask for an additional dose of homemade sriracha. A wrap the size of a forearm is lined with free range chicken and sour cream made with fermented lemons. Smacks of thyme play well with the tender bites of chicken and pickled vegetables add loud texture and scorches of acid flavors. Grab it with a pile of fresh green salad. Salads are usually stacked with spicy sprouts or generous servings of quinoa. Bartolomé’s increasing curiosity for ferments and probiotics mean that grains are prepared with homemade kefir and topped with activated sunflower cheese or a house yogurt.
For dessert, go for a budin de pan the size of a brick. Pops of orange coat the tongue in between the saccharine sweet hits of whipped cream and dulce de leche. Or if you really want to understand the kitchens philosophy of updated takes on familiar flavors, grab the vigilante. Here they swap out the slice of grainy quince for softened cubes of candied yams. I doubt you will be disappointed.
Yedra Cocina Silvestre
Address: Freire 896, Colegiales
Hours: Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 6pm
Price per person: lunch special $400-500
Recommended dishes: panes al vapor, tacos, corn waffles