Apps Only: Purple Yam
Purple Yam isn't exactly below the radar—Sam Sifton reviewed it in the Times last year—but it's more or less off the radar, located out on Cortelyou Road in Ditmas Park. Still, the Fillipino-fusion spot serves up some seriously tasty food on an exotic yet accessible menu that eschews the appetizer/entree format for something much more Apps Only-friendly.
We started with an order of the Fresh Lumpia ($7), a rice crepe filled with heaps of sauteed cabbage, sprouts, leeks and mushrooms. Topped with sweet peanut sauce and a tangy tamarind sauce, this was a great start to our meal. The crepe was soft and mild, topped with peanut and tamarind sauce for a sweet and tangy combination, while the vegetables were cooked but still crunchy. And for seven bucks, there was a good amount of food on the plate.
Next came an order of Sisig ($12), a dish worth the train ride in and of itself. Described on the menu as "pig cheeks, ears and snout in lime and chilies," it's the kind of pig-part dish that's easy to love. If someone at the table cries out with squeamishness, ignore them and order the sisig anyway--trust me, they'll see the light. The pork parts are diced and cooked until crispy, then served with an all-important lime wedge. That lime adds just enough acid to cut the fat and take you straight to pork heaven. It went well with the order of homemade Daikon Kimchi ($3), which was crunchy and spicy, though not overbearingly so.
Purple Yam has a daily dumpling selection; on the day we ate it was Edamame and Tofu Dumplings ($7). Texturally, the filling was a knockout, as the edamame retained some crunch, but the flavor was a bit bland (a ginger-spiked dipping sauce helped with that a bit). Also, these dumplings were not structurally sound: they stuck together and tore when we tried to remove them from their steamer basket. Messy, and nothing to write home about, although I'd be lying if I said we didn't eat all six. Still, I have no regrets, and I appreciated the unorthodox combination of fillings. Your mileage may vary, as the dumplings change on a regular basis.
This may not sound like a ton of food, but portion sizes were generous, if not enormous, and the two of us walked away stuffed. We spent $29 before tax and tip, just under the $15/person Apps Only target price. Purple Yam is an all-time great restaurant to share small plates with friends; their menu is perfectly set up for it, and the prices are friendly. So is the service. My only advice is that you bring a few friends, because there are a number of dishes on this menu that you'll want to sample.