Martha Stewart and this Filipino resto in NY

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This is quite interesting!  I have been trying to find ways of either opening a Filipino restaurant here in Charleston, there is really nowhere that is good that I find, unless they’ve changed their menus.  I know of 2 places, that is considered “Filipino” food…its more like mixture of Chinese-American type of food.  Its more americaninzed and not really the authentic filipino food that I grew up with.  I recently went back home to California and I was spoiled with good Filipino home cooking and as well as some great many Filipino restaurant or take away food!! I didn’t want to come back!! There are soo many of great selections and I was really amiss to return to SC as we don’t have that option.  So in finding this story from Margaux Salcedo, Philippine Daily Inquirer – is quite interesting and it gives me an excuse to do a road trip to check it out! :D Thanks to Inquirer.net for the image too! :)

FIVE years ago, I had the privilege of dining at the only Filipino restaurant in Soho, New York City called Cendrillon (sen-dree-yon).

The Design Team for Purple YamIt was a restaurant of mixed reviews: Some loved it because of the creativity of Chef Romy Dorotan, who gave his own flavor to traditional Filipino dishes; others hated it because they argued that they were looking for Filipino food and did not find it here. I was among those who loved Cendrillon and Dorotan’s kitchen experiments. It may not be traditional—rare is the adobo cooked in gata (coconut milk)—but the essence and flavors of Filipino cooking are present, and his creativity is a pleasure to indulge in.

Apparently Frank Bruni, resident restaurant critic for The New York Times, appreciated Chef Romy’s creativity as well and gave Cendrillon an appreciative review. Another fan is the queen of good housekeeping, Martha Stewart herself, who guested him twice on her show, with artist Perry Mamaril even authentically grating coconut from the husk in one of the episodes of “The Martha Stewart Show.”

Last year, however, the clock struck midnight for this Cinderella (Cendrillon actually translates to Cinderella) and it had to close its doors and its kitchen. It was certainly a sad day for Filipino foodies the world over who had come to regard Cendrillon not only with affection and adulation but also with a kind of pride that one of our own had made it in The City.

But bibidee-bobidee-boo, it turns out that the magic on Cinderella has not disappeared because the power couple of Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa (restaurateur and author of “Memories of Philippine Kitchens,” a much lauded book on Philippine food culture and history) has simply relocated to Brooklyn. I wondered if it would be a wise move since the action in New York seems to be in Manhattan. But Ms. Besa countered that Brooklyn has a great restaurant crowd. Plus, I figured, if “Sex and the City” has said that “Brooklyn is the new Manhattan,” we have to take The Girls’ word for it!

The new restaurant will be called Purple Yam. And it will be just like Cendrillon, although bigger in scope. Instead of being limited to Dorotan-style Filipino cooking, Purple Yam will have Asian soul food whose versions will be specific to persons the couple actually knows. For example, they will serve the Koreans’ popular kimchi not in any ordinary way, but using the version of the mother of Jane, an artist who helped design the interiors of Purple Yam. You might even want to contribute your own version of dinuguan or lumpia; the couple is very open to suggestions. So I envision the menu to be a live version of “Memories of Philippine Kitchens,” except that instead of having just the recipes of lolas, lolos, mothers, and yayas from the Philippines, the recipes of lolas, lolos, mothers, and yayas from all over Asia will come to life as well at Purple Yam.

Since it is difficult to replicate real Filipino flavors in New York given the limited Asian ingredients in the United States, the couple has resorted to experimenting on creating new Asian flavors with the ingredients the city has to offer. They are currently having a blast in the kitchen, mixing up various grains and seeds from all over Asia to create Purple Yam’s own bowl of Asian rice. This is bound to be exciting, especially in terms of texture. Imagine wild rice mixed with Japanese short grain rice mixed with lentil, among other things. Amy Besa says it’s a blast and I will take her word for it.

Of course, Cendrillon staples such as their homemade ube ice cream and pirurutong paella will stay. Along with their commitment to cooking gourmet, Besa is passionate in a campaign against MSG and swears that anyone who uses MSG destroys rather than enhances the intrinsic flavor of ingredients. So you can expect an MSG-free menu at Purple Yam, even for Chinese favorites. I guess you can expect that ube here will be halaya.

The interiors are very similar to the old Cendrillon. Although the restaurant was still undergoing construction when I visited, the red brick walls and the welcoming bar reminded me of the old Cendrillon in an instant. Like in the Soho resto, Perry Mamaril is also creating new art fixtures for this restaurant using bamboo.

Unfortunately, all I’ve had was a teaser of what Purple Yam will look like. I will have to come back in July for a real taste of it. No doubt, though, that Dorotan fans the world over are as excited as myself to see what he’ll be cooking up next! •

Purple Yam. 1314 Cortelyou Rd., Brooklyn, NY 11226 (between Rugby and Argyle). Opening in July 2009.

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