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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dinner #4 of 2014 - Purple Yam

Last week, we ate on Courtelyou with Dance & Stretch (last time out with them was Tanoreen) at Purple Yam. We had a great meal in a tweener setting. Tweener? Purple Yam doesn't have the atmosphere or Franny's (aromatic), La Vara (comfortable), or Hibino (elegant and hushed). It also doesn't feel like a restaurant in Chinatown or Curry Hill either. It's in-between.

Yet the food was terrific. We ordered and enjoyed six different dishes and loved them all, including a whole fried dorade. The chicken adobo came with a sauce equal parts tangy, rich with coconut, and full of garlic) but weirdly included chicken breast. So stewed breast is going to be dry and the breast meat was dry.

The only dish we didn't like was the Pincit Bihon. This is a stir-fried noodle dish that was bland.

The meal ended with a very exceptional dessert. We had this mango pancake (forgot the name) with a scoop of mango ice cream. None of us were hungry so we politely ordered one to share. Next time we'll ask if it's a special that day and if so, we'll order two fewer entrees.

Dinner #3 of 214 - La Vara

In June, I was fortunate to dine at La Vara on a quiet Wednesday evening with a client. My overall impression is that La Vara is a tremendous neighborhood restaurant, perhaps not worth traveling from faraway neighborhoods, unless you are looking for a highly-specific Spanish dish. I was looking for a specific dish, found and loved it. So I'll return soon.

On this evening, we started with the Garbanzos Fritos. Simply put, this is a bowl of perfectly fried chic peas. I've actually made it at home a few times since (similar to the chic peas in a pasta dish from Franny's). It's a great snack as you review the menu and consider the specials.

Just as the chic peas were nearing completion our Coca De Cebes arrived. This is torn pieces of flatbread tossed with vegetables and a healthy amount of sherry vinegar (I think). Lovely if not very memorable.

So the highly-specific dish: Fideua. I've read about this multiple times but never seen it on a menu. Simply put, this dish is a paella using narrow noodles instead of rice. Fantastic. The noodles are uniform and expertly al dente. Each one has taken on the broth's flavor and this rendition had nicely cooked clams (better than mine).

For dessert, I had the Natillas de Arroz con Leche. Rice pudding cooked so nicely that the rice has all but disintegrated into the custard with enough rose and cinnamon to make their presence known without overpowering the milk's natural flavor.

The staff helped us pick a fantastic Rioja. It was a little meaty and chewy for our dishes. Nonetheless, I drank half and had no headache the next morning. 

I didn't enjoy La Vara as much as Hibino (practically neighbors) but will be happy to return.