I’ve always wondered why there aren’t any Filipino restaurants in Brooklyn. Are Brooklynites’ palates too refined for the bold flavors of Filipino cuisine?
In years of cooking I’ve seen a lot of wrinkled noses when I say the words “fish sauce,” and have heard many complaints about the strong acid aromas of any good adobo in process. But I always thought it was a matter of real estate prices that there weren’t any accessible places where I could easily scratch a Pinoy food itch.
And so I was very happy to hear that friends had tried and successfully enjoyed meals at Purple Yam in Ditmas Park since they opened. Built by the Manhattan “Filipino fusion” restaurant Cendrillon‘s owners, NYT food critic Sam Sifton was actually pleased when he visited Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan’s new joint a few steps from the Q train in Ditmas Park.
After many friends raved about the new taste, and remembering Romy’s statement in the NYT article that most Pinoy’s don’t consider this their mother’s cooking, we gave it a shot and were pleasantly surprised. Purple Yam is a food experience that stands on its own, especially in an area where the closest competition is a bakery that sells cracked cheesecakes and Spongebob Squarepants cookies.
We began with the okoy, battered and fried vegetable fritters with big pieces of shrimp. It was hot and tasty served with a diluted duck sauce.
We ordered the cod dumplings which were unremarkable and served with a tasteless butter sauce that was as unnecessary as the dumplings on the menu. We had asked the hipster server if the dumplings were like wontons or like Jamaican flour dumplings. Answer: “They are round.” (A tip to PY that they really shouldn’t hire people who don’t know what a wonton is.) I wouldn’t order it again. The bacalao was bland (whut whut!?) and the wrapper was thick and tough.
We were there for brunch and so I had to have Tapsilog, a Filipino farmer’s breakfast of air-dried beef (beef tapa on the menu), fried rice and eggs. The beef tapa was very tender with an essence of rice wine or mirin, an unusual flavor when one expects the salt and vinegar flavors of Filipino tapa.
The tocino was a good quality cut of pork, and delicious sweetened with a grilled flavor. But it was not tocino in that it was not red, caramelized, and thick to the bite.
A friend ordered a whole grilled snapper which was cooked perfectly, but more in the Chinese tradition.
The bibingka (yellow rice cake) was a delicious dessert especially with a side of purple yam ice cream. It was very light and fluffy like a chiffon cake as opposed to the dense nature of traditional bibingka.
A bonus: The owner Romy Dorotan actually came over to say hello and have a short Tagalog conversation with us, a nice gesture I’ve never gotten anywhere so that is a major plus.
|Happy cooks in the kitchen. I was happy to be able to say, “Manong, pa-picture ha?”|
My take on Purple Yam Restaurant is that it is a great new place to try for someone unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine. It definitely will be a great taste experience for the uninitiated tongue. It stands on its own in the Asian fusion genre that I admit general dislike for. I would recommend it to people in the area who want something other than the usual bloody mary and eggs brunch experience.
|No Silver Swan Soy Sauce here.|
Is it Filipino? Sam Sifton did say that it’s “not precisely Filipino,” owing to the all-encompassing vision of the Key West-trained chef (Boar pizza? Come on!). Romy’s assessment is right that Pinoy purists would stay away. This is not a place I would hit for a tapsilog craving. For that there are reliable legends like Ihawan in Woodside for a quarter of the cost. (PY brunch for 3 adults and 2 kids under 5 years old was $98)
But the mere mention of the words okoy, tapsilog, tocino, and adobo in Brooklyn? Priceless. Though I might not be back, I must credit the owners for bringing Flip cuisine to the hood.
All text and photos by DopamineJunkie.org unless otherwise indicated. ©2012 DopamineJunkie.org