Purple Yam: Transplanted and Flourishing
When Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan transplanted their Filipino-centric, pan-Asian restaurant out of Manhattan and into Brooklyn, Purple Yam, a fixture in the neighborhood for close to five years now, introduced a new flavor to Cortelyou Road. When I asked Romy why they moved to Ditmas Park, “It was the only place to go . . . We live in Brooklyn, so it made sense to have the restaurant close by. But seriously, a friend recommended that we move [the restaurant] to this area because it was up and coming.”
A very Pacific Rim vibe, complete with a rustic patio, transports you to a beach bungalow as if you were on a much-needed island getaway. Romy appeared from the basement and greeted me with a big smile as he does with each of his customers. While I awaited the rest of my party, including our photographer Erik Teng, actor Alex Pappas, and writer May Kagan, Romy had the bartender bring an extremely photogenic martini with a small ball of orange- honeydew-kalamansi sorbet floating on top.
Once my party arrived, Romy excused himself from the table to start the parade of dishes. His passion and creativity appeared in every corner of the comfortably mismatched plates to every decadent morsel. Each dish that came out of the kitchen was even more stunningly photogenic and creatively flavored than the last, and Romy would magically appear seemingly out of nowhere to explain each dish. A few have been left out of the review because there simply were too many.
Starters and Sides
Pickles & Breadfruit Chips: Chef Haegeen Kim, proprietor of the new Williamsburg hotspot Dotory (Korean for acorn), brought a Korean influence to Purple Yam evident in the variety of dishes available. The green mango, a popular savory and super sour fruit used in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim, was dressed in the traditional Korean red pepper paste. The most surprising of kimchi was the refreshing white peach which really wowed Alex and Mya. The pickles paired well with the breadfruit chips. Breadfruit, a popular form of starch in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Caribbean, was named for its potato-like flavor and freshly baked bread scent when ripe and cooked.
Ukoy: These puffy, crisp shrimp and vegetable fritters were beautifully plated. The dipping sauce was rather unique, a combination of Thai sriracha chilies, the pickling brine used for their green papaya pickles, and vinegar. A punch of spicy and sour was just what the crunchy, chewy fritters needed.
Eggplant Kulawo: Fire- roasted Chinese eggplant dressed in a burnt coconut cream and surrounded by matchsticks of fresh fruit and vegetables was intriguing on so many levels. It had a variety of textures, colors, flavors, and even sounds. Purple grape tomatoes, yellow Korean cucumbers, slips of green mango, chunks of nectarines, and slivers of bitter melon kept one engaged in every bite to the very end. Tip: Bitter melon is an acquired taste, so proceed with caution.
Bagoong Fried Rice: A dried shrimp paste is what gave this fried rice an edge above all others. The sweetness of the shrimp, saltiness of the preservation process, and a slightly fermented taste provided a new level of umami to what is usually an uneventful filler dish for photographer Erik.
Codfish Cakes: These light, airy croquettes of pureed bacalao, a dried and salt-cured cod, and potato sat atop a bed of smoothly cooked taro leaves, or laing in Bicol, a dialect in the Philippines spoken by Romy.
Chicken Adobo: A national dish of the Philippines, the chicken adobo arrived in a clay pot still boiling from having been just removed from the fire. The chicken was very tender, and my friends and I had to refrain from trying to drink the resulting soy sauce and vinegar gravy straight from the sizzling pot.
Sinagang: Romy replaced the traditionally tamarind based stock with a lemon and rhubarb stock in this national sour soup of the Philippines. A bass fritter floated in the delicate broth surrounded by a mélange of fruits and vegetables. The guava in the soup stole the show, providing a creamy texture and a sweet taste to this tart dish.
Mango Tart with Homemade Mango Ice Cream: Seasonally available, the flaky crust hugs the warm mango and cool ice cream tickling all of the taste buds.
Buko Pie with Macapuno Ice Cream: The young coconut pie was so deceivingly light, yet so rich that I would recommend sharing this dessert. Macapuno is a popular, fleshier mutant to the coconut used widely in the Philippines.
For more information and to drool over Purple Yam’s menu, please visit their website at: