For Emily Yeoh, food and memory go hand in hand. Most of her cherished remembrances revolve around family dinners and cooking alongside her grandmother and mother, and it was these formative experiences that fostered her passion for the culinary arts – a pastime that evolved into much more than a hobby when Emily successfully applied for MasterChef in 2014. Since transitioning from biomedical engineer with a passion for cooking to culinary professional in her own right, Emily has worked towards the singular goal of opening her own namesake restaurant – one that was a reflection of her roots and an outlet for channelling the unbridled joy of feeding others. When Emily returned to Brisbane in 2019, she initially planned to find work at a local restaurant while searching for suitable spots for her own concept, but by pure happenstance Emily’s dream venue presented itself quickly in the shape of a vacant restaurant space (formerly home to a Coffee Club outlet) perched on the corner of Given Terrace and Hayward Street in Paddington. Long empty and desperately crying out for some TLC, Emily snatched it up and immediately got to work turning it into the kind of eatery she dreamed of owning. The 140-sqm space was gutted and reforged anew – newly exposed ceilings increase the venue’s sense of height, a new marble bar (with four beer taps, a coffee machine and plenty of room for wine) draws the eye, while the floor plan has been devised to cater for dine-in service and private bookings with ease. Emily has infused elements of her upbringing into the aesthetic, placing subtle references to her family (the dark-timber ladder in the bar is a replica of the one found in her grandmother’s home) around the space, alongside a sophisticated colour palette of deep blue and white. Between Emily Yeoh Restaurant’s indoor and patio dining space, the venue can hold roughly 140 patrons for standing cocktail-style functions, but upon opening will be set up to seat 50 guests per cover until all restrictions have been lifted.
The modern-Asian fare at Emily Yeoh Restaurant draws influence and inspiration from the culinary diversity of Asia at large. While elements of Emily’s debut menu is built on core foundations of Chinese, Cantonese and Malaysian cooking, discernible traces of Japanese, Thai, South Korean, Singaporean and Hong Kong cuisine also feature. In addition to this, Emily has endeavoured to incorporate native-Australian ingredients often across the menu, with finger limes, Davidson plum, lilly pilly and other local and sustainably sourced produce (some grown in Emily’s own garden) incorporated throughout. The end result is a harmonious amalgam of Emily’s own heritage and her love of the multicultural melting pot that is Australia’s food scene. While due respect is paid to the cultures she is inspired by, in the end Emily’s debut menu is uniquely hers, made singular thanks to her use of French cooking techniques, beloved family recipes and an unabashed love of the craft. Until Emily Yeoh Restaurant opens for dine-in service, the team is introducing elements of the restaurant’s full menu to Brisbane diners via a streamlined takeaway-only menu. Currently, the menu is divided up into entrees, proteins and vegetable, noodle and rice dishes. Baskets of steaming Gold Coast prawn har gao and vegetarian ham sui gok, plates of spiced crispy chicken wings and shredded-duck spring rolls are sublime tasters to whet one’s appetite ahead of Emily’s stand-out mains. Must-try dishes include the signature boneless duck and lychee red curry, Emily’s mother’s secret Hainanese chicken recipe, Malaysian-style fragrant beef-brisket curry, home-style char xiu fried rice and fried egg noodle with shredded duck, crispy shallots and garlic chips. The menu will gradually evolve and expand over time – Emily is eager to introduce the likes of salmon cured in Japanese brown-rice green tea and ‘kitchen scraps’ (an assortment of produce off-cuts utilised to minimise waste – think chilli, lemongrass and lime skin), Gangnam-style fried mushrooms, pillowy Hong Kong-style brioche buns filled with barbecue pork, and free-range chicken poached traditionally in caramelised soy sauce. The drinks list will similarly evolve, with a selection of wines, tap beers and cocktails set to grow alongside Emily’s fare.
Emily Yeoh Restaurant will open officially on Monday August 10, but guests can order takeaway now. Hit the Stumble Guide for menu and contact details.