By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – I sinfully almost finished the delectable tsampoy (tamarind) ice cream of the Purple Yam Restaurant before the fine dessert tupig (creamy purple yam and sticky rice concoction) arrived on our table. It was so good that it was gone too fast. But by itself, the tupig was heavenly.
The culinary magic of chef and owner Romy Dorotan draws mostly non-Filipino guests on Cortelyou Road. On May 26, a Friday, he treated us to a parade of dishes from Ukoy to the community’s favorite Mango Tart. We were all delighted with our Brooklyn adventure during the Filipino Restaurant Week, worth all the long travel, which was extended (winding down on May 31st).
The gastronomic experience was peppered with the laughter of friends Cristina Pastor of The Filam.net, GMA’s Grace Labaguis, column writer and leader Lumen Castaneda, and my guests, Dr. Jose Eleazar Bersales and Dr. Challoner Matero, who flew in from Cebu for the Double Book Launch of the University of San Carlos Press at the Philippine Consulate on May 24. Minutes later, fellow Carolinian accountant Jaena Valles completed the contingent.
That night, we were a microcosm of the Big Apple’s grub excitement created by Filipino chefs. The fact that the Filipino Restaurant Week was extended for the first time since Filipinos joined the well-loved New York Restaurant week three years ago, meant we loved pigging out and flaunting what the chefs have to offer. A brainchild (or how about belly child?) of the Philippine Consulate, the NYC Restaurant Week promotes the culinary flare of diverse cultures in the Big Apple.
But guess what? It is not just a gastronomic adventure itself, but the company of friends matters so much too. Set in spring, the excitement to wine and dine with friends after the frigid winter was a thing that I looked forward to, which was also actually ignited by Cultural officer Olive Osias-Magpile.
Good friend Cristina suggested that we go to Maison Hugo on Lexington. So we did, along with GMA’s Grace Labaguis, and Vivian and Frank Cruz.
Maison Hugo is owned and operated by chef Florian Hugo and Filipino wife Michelle, a modern brasserie on Lexington in the upper east side of Manhattan. We purposely ordered different pre-fixe dinner so that we could share and sample each other’s choices.
Well, we almost always just say uuumm, good, good. And then laugh, and eat some more: a truly enjoyable evening. I had the adobong manok for main course, then the turon (caramelized fried banana) for dessert, which was a tremendous elevation of the naturally delicious fruit.
Further back into the restaurant, several of our Filipino friends had fun dining too.
My wish is for the Filipino Restaurant week to open at the onset of each season. Winter has its reason too, like the warm arroz caldo, for instance, for the entire society to savor. If prices were likewise competitive, those Filipino dishes that are to die for, will become a mainstream palette. I am just thinking out loud, as I salivate. (Featured photo is Purple Yam’s Mango Tart)
Maison Hugo 132 E 61st Street, New York, NY 10036, 212-832-0500, www.maisonhugo.com
Purple Yam 1314 Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn, NY 11226, 718-940 8188, www.purpleyamnyc.com