A Pair of Yono’s Returning to Albany
By STEVE BARNES, Senior writer
First published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Dominick Purnomo sticks his nose into a wine glass, deeply inhaling the fragrant earthy, spicy perfumes rising from the still-swirling garnet liquid. He sips, closes his eyes and, for two seconds, does a reverse whistle, inhaling through pursed lips.
The airflow helps him further explore the character of the French red he’s considering for inclusion on the 600-label wine list Purnomo is finalizing for his family’s two new restaurants, Yono’s and DP: An American Brasserie, both located in the Hampton Inn & Suites hotel on Chapel Street in downtown Albany. DP will have a soft opening next week, with a limited menu and curtailed hours, and Yono’s should be open by mid-March. A gala grand opening for both is scheduled for the beginning of April.
Peering into his glass of Petite Figeac, from St. Emilion in Bordeaux, Purnomo nods and says, “It’s got a very green-pepper nose.” I poke my own nose back into my glass and, yup, there it is: bell peppers, moist earth, blackberries. Gifted sommeliers are like keen-eared classical music critics, able to separate out component parts as well as evaluate complex wholes. A few minutes later, during a four-hour session in which we taste almost 30 wines, Purnomo sips an American red blend composed of 74 percent cabernet sauvignon plus other varietals, including zinfandel.
He asks, “Get that coconut and dill?” I do. “That’s the zin spiciness,” he says.
We’ve been tasting candidates and talking about the Yono’s and DP wine lists since last summer, when Purnomo and his parents — chef Yono and business-brained Donna — announced that the third incarnation of Yono’s would be created in the Hampton Inn, which opened in October. In 1999, after 15 years on Hamilton Street, behind the Empire State Plaza, Yono’s moved to Armory Center, also in Albany, but it was forced out in late 2004 by the auto dealer’s expansion.
Construction delays pushed the restaurants’ downtown debuts from last October to beyond the lucrative Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day seasons. With finishing touches being made on both restaurants this week, the Purnomos finally are aiming to return to their proper position as one of the region’s premiere dining hosts.
DP: An American Brasserie — the initials are Dominick’s, though they also could be Donna’s — will be an 80-seat casual hotel restaurant and bar, open for lunch through late night. Tapas, salads, sandwiches and entrees range from conventional garlicky escargot to extravagant revisions: a Kobe beef hamburger with foie gras and truffles, in homage to a burger invented by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud, Dominick Purnomo’s restaurant hero. The family’s final treat to itself before leaping back into the seven-day-a-week restaurant grind was a grand feast in mid-February at Boulud’s Manhattan showplace, Daniel, where they dined with Food Network star Bobby Flay, who is an old friend of Yono Purnomo’s. (In another nod to Boulud, Dominick Purnomo prefers that his initials appear lowercase in dp: An American Brasserie, which echoes the logo typography of Boulud’s db bistro moderne.)
Yono’s will be a 60-seat sanctuary situated behind DP, an elegant, two-level space with a shimmering chandelier and fireplace. From a kitchen eight times as large as the one he used for a decade and a half on Hamilton Street, Yono Purnomo will again deliver his signature cuisine of Continental dishes and fare from his native Indonesia, available in appetizer, entree and tasting-menu formats.
Based on my dining experiences at the Armory Center Yono’s and conversations with the Purnomos, I expect Yono’s and DP to make important contributions to the local restaurant scene. The delightfully quirky specials with which chef Jaime Ortiz complements steaks at 677 Prime seem to have invigorated the already creative Andrew Plummer at McGuire’s; the return of Yono’s should keep both Plummer and Ortiz on their toes, especially because, with 677 Prime and Yono’s/DP a mere five minutes’ walk apart, they should have considerable crossover business of hungry bar nibblers.
Dominick Purnomo’s wine program looks even more ambitious than his father’s cooking. From a 4,000-bottle wine room near the door between DP and Yono’s, he will select that 600-label list, including 50 wines by the glass. The list encompasses 15 countries; on its title page the word wines is spelled in the seven different languages spoken in those nations. (The only wine list of a similar size in the immediate Capital Region is at Chez Sophie in Malta, currently with about 490 labels. That figure will grow past 600 after Chez Sophie makes its own relocation, to The Saratoga Hotel, the former Prime hotel on Broadway, in late April.)
The younger Purnomo, who has earned significant sommelier accreditation though he’s only 25, has packed his collection with prestige names: three vintages of Lafite Rothschild ($333-$600), four of Mouton Rothschild ($266-$480), two of Petrus ($800-$1,333), two of D’Yquem ($170 a half-bottle) and 10 Robert Mondavi reserve cabernets from the period 1977 to 2000 ($216-$370). But the list also has scads of bottles less than $50, many cheaper than $35, some sub-$20; by-the-glass selections cost $6 to $16.
All wines will be served in Riedel glassware, at the sommelier’s insistence. Dominick Purnomo — tall, broad and invariably in a jacket if not a suit — is as commanding and classy as a Range Rover, and his tastes are comparably upscale. He selected a gold-flecked black-granite bar and pressed hard for silver utensils until his mother prevailed for the far-cheaper stainless. He refused to relent on his beloved Riedel, which costs two to four times more per stem than he could have spent.
“My mom says I spend, spend, spend,” he says with a laugh. “She calls me Spendosaurus. But she’s the reason there’s still a Yono’s after 25 years. She keeps my father and me in line.”
At the first meeting of the Yono’s staff, held at the hotel in mid-February, Dominick was the steady center between his polar-opposite parents. Yono, voluble and chortling, is the creative artist; bottom-line Donna seemed strict, scolding staffers who neglected to bring proper identification and stating flatly that missing a shift without notifying management would result in job loss.
But the three have a unified vision. Dominick told the assembled staff, “What you’re going to help us create is the best restaurant any of you have ever worked at. We’re going for a world-class place.”
Added his mother, “Treat every person who comes in here, whether it’s once a week or once a year or just once, as if he or she is a million-dollar customer. Great service is never haughty, never condescending. It is service that makes the customer feel good about themselves, feel special, feel like they want to come back and share the experience with their friends. That feeling is addictive, and we have to create it every night.”
Steve Barnes can be reached at 454-5489 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
* What: Upscale fine dining
* Where: 25 Chapel St., Albany (attached to Hampton Inn & Suites). At intersection of Chapel Street and Sheridan Avenue, one block west of North Pearl Street
* Hours: Dinner only from 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday
* Menu: Indonesian and Continental cuisine. At least 20 appetizers ($7-$20) and 20 entrees ($18-$33) nightly, plus eight-course chef’s tasting menu ($89)
* Signature item: “Babi Kecap Bakar Bengkulu: Pork tenderloin bathed in an infusion of sweet soy, ginger and orange rind. $29.”
* Wine list: 600 labels; 4,000-bottle humidity- and temperature-controlled cellar
* Attire: Elegant casual; jackets appreciated for men
* Info: 436-7747; http://www.yonos.com
* Reservations: Strongly recommended. Available starting later this month through http://www.opentable.com
DP: AN AMERICAN BRASSERIE
* What: Informal dining and hotel bar
* Where: 25 Chapel St., Albany. See above.
* Hours: Food served 11:30 a.m.-midnight Monday through Thursday; until 1 a.m. or later Friday and Saturday; 3-11 p.m. Sunday. Bar usually open later.
* Menu: Eclectic American and international fare; 60-plus items, including tapas-style small plates. Appetizers $7-$11.50; entree salads $10-$13; sandwiches and burgers $9-$25; entrees $11-$18; tapas $4-$14. Full Yono’s menu also available. Food available at bar.
* Signature item: “DP Burger: Ground Kobe beef layered with shaved truffles, Hudson Valley foie gras, Kobe beef bacon, tomato concasse, frisee, onion bun. $25.”
* Wine list: 50 wines by the glass. Full Yono’s list also available.
* Attire: Casual
* Info: 436-3737; Web site, http://www.dpbrasserie.com, going online later this month.
* Reservations: Not yet available.
A Triumphant Return
By B.A. Nilsson
*Hampton Inn and Suites, 25 Chapel St., Albany, 436-7747. Serving dinner Mon-Sat from 5:30. AE, MC, D, V. *
*Cuisine: continental and Indonesian *
*Entrée price range: $18 (sautéed tofu and vegetables) to $49 (five-course rijsttafel) *
*Ambiance: as elegant as it gets *
Do I need to tell you about Yono’s food? His reputation as one of the area•s finest chefs is well deserved, reinforced by what•s served at his new venue. I’ll get into it toward the end of this piece, but let’s look now at what makes dinner at his restaurant such a completely satisfying, even uplifting experience.
Widjiono Purnomo is a native of Jakarta, and entered the business on board the SS Rotterdam, where he met his wife, Donna. Once in Albany, Yono created the cuisine at the 21 Restaurant before opening the first of his eponymous eateries in Robinson Square, where he combined Indonesian and French approaches to cooking, easing his clientele into a menu we•d now be disappointed not to find.
Following a precipitous parting from Armory Center, he found a home in the new downtown Hampton Inn and Suites, in time for him to create dining rooms to his specifications. Four distinct areas emerged: A bistro area, called DP, with an attractive bar and a menu featuring salads, saté skewers, burgers and under-$20 entrées; a banquet area, sizeable to your event; a room specially appointed for dinner meetings with presentations, and the formal dining room, with a sprinkling of tables and the kind of attention you’d expect at a palace.
Donna has long been a driving force behind the floor at their restaurants, and now she’s joined by her son, Dominick, who oversees the tables with the panache of a well-seasoned veteran freeing his mom to spend needed time on her signature desserts.
It’s a collision of sorts between a family feeling, with its intimations of casualness, and the formal approach that lifts fine dining into one of life’s more pleasant experiences. The result is a floor that operates with the efficiency of a machine and the anticipatory insight of a skilled butler.
Key to this is customer empathy. Dining is typically routined, of course, but it’s challenge enough for some places to even keep up with the routine. At Yono’s, it feels as if you’re at a dinner party at a fancy home with a calm and friendly host. Servers visit the table with frequent inquiries that never prove intrusive. We know you’re doing well, they seem to say, but we’ll still try to enhance that experience.
It’s the kind of floor that anticipates your next course with the proper silverware. You won’t be asked, Who has the chicken? And when you•re served the chicken pistache Alexondra ($21, and named for the Purnomos•daughter), you’ll revel in the combo of cream and prosciutto, mushrooms and pistachios that infuses the sauce with a flavor that doesn’t reveal any boundaries, flowing from one flavor to the next.
Fresh flowers abound, on tables and at key locations around the room. Large mirrors on one wall have journeyed with Yono and Donna from one restaurant to the next. Wall colors were chosen to recall those restaurants, dominated by a soothing blue.
This elegance is reflected in every aspect of the room, from the large Yono’s-emblazoned liners to the handsome coffee cups with which you’ll finish your meal. And the plate presentations, while not fussy, are nicely balanced and add to the appeal.
Indonesian items comprise one of the two large menu pages, continental fare the other. Steaks and seafood are joined by exotica like pan-roasted ostrich medallions ($30) and an appetizer of sautéed alligator in a lemon-caper sauce ($13, and worth a sample, as my adventurous daughter attested). You can understand that, while we were tempted by the latter, it’s a pleasurable duty to explore Yono’s native cuisine.
At the height of which is rijsttafel ($49), a five-course blowout that takes you through a kaleidoscope of flavors and ingredients. Saté you already are familiar with, and the succulent bits of marinated chicken are available separately ($9). As is kepiting goreng ($13), an Asian crabcake served with the just-right combo of a sweet citrus mayonnaise and a spicy chipotle sauce.
Soto makaser is a soup ($8 separately) in which the flavor of lamb dominates, in the broth and thanks to chunks of the meat. It’s billed as a 17th-century pirate soup, and I can believe it, although the flavor of lemongrass leads me to wonder if those buccaneers had it very rough.
Although the component vegetables of the salad called gado gado ($7) are marinated in a light vinaigrette, they remain subtle of flavor, and so the addition of tomato and peanut sauce dressing is restrained so as not to overwhelm the stuff. It’s a great palate cleanser.
The rijsttafel’s entrée portion is itself a platter of many things, among them bakmi goreng ($25 a la carte), a noodle-based dish with chicken and shrimp, and a festival of smaller servings based on rice and shrimp and more.
Nasi rames ($32) is another multi-course feast, replicating much of the rijsttafel but less extravagantly. I sought entrée advice from our server, who insisted that the rack of lamb iga kambing bakar bengkulu ($29) transcends what’s typically served. And he was right. The meat marinates in a Pernod-laced vinaigrette, and is served with a coconut-milk-infused curry sauce. It’s like nothing you’ve ever tasted before.
This doesn’t touch on the appetizer of roasted, venison-like kangaroo ($18) that the hardier members of my party sampled and enjoyed, or the amuses bouches of wild mushroom-stuffed wontons on a tangy sambal, or the gnocchi with crabmeat we were sent to quell any possible hunger as our entrées were cooking but you know enough. You’re equipped with a foretaste of what’s now Albany’s finest fine-dining establishment. Yono’s has landed exactly where it belongs.
Prodigy of the Vine
Yono’s Dominick Purnomo is already an accomplished sommelier at age 22
By DOUG BLACKBURN, Staff writer
First published: Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Dominick Purnomo, one of the youngest sommeliers in the United States, is a big believer in tradition.
He insists on sampling a freshly opened bottle before a customer tastes the wine. Purnomo performs this ritual dozens of times on a busy evening at Yono’s, his family’s restaurant. He always uses a tastevin, the dimpled silver cup attached to a chain that he wears around his neck, to test the wine.
If Purnomo approves of the wine — and more than nine times out of 10 he does — he will pour a taste for the person ordering the wine.
“I don’t want people to spend their hard-earned money on wine they’re not going to enjoy, especially if the wine is my recommendation,” Purnomo explains. “I don’t want them having to decide if a bottle is corked or off in some other way.”
Purnomo is also the maitre d’ at Yono’s. A commanding presence at 6-foot-2, the handsome, dark-haired young man regularly dresses in a black tuxedo.
Purnomo is certainly the country’s most accomplished 22-year-old sommelier. He is the youngest to have passed the first level of the master sommelier testing series. This Saturday, he will be one of nine regional winners in Miami vying for the national title in a young sommeliers competition hosted by La Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, a food and wine society.
The age cutoff is 32 and to be eligible participants must be 23 during the year of the competition. Purnomo, whose birthday is June 13, was disappointed he couldn’t take part last year, when he reached the legal drinking age.
Undergoing the tests
The Northeast regional was held in Boston in February. Purnomo was one of only two taking part in the daylong examination that featured a written test on spirits and wine followed by two blind tastings of six glasses of wines. They were also given three menus and told to pair wines to them, explaining their reasoning.
“Am I nervous taking part in a national competition? Sure, I’m a little anxious,” says Purnomo, who could easily pass for 30. “But for me, the camaraderie is a big part of it, getting together with other people in the industry and comparing what we do.
“I love wine. I really, really do. I don’t just love to drink wine, I love to read about wine and talk about it. You can never know it all with wine. Sometimes it seems like the more you learn the more there is to know. It’s a never-ending journey.”
Purnomo began this journey at an earlier age than most people. His parents, Donna and Yono Purnomo, are one of the most prominent restaurant families in the region. Before moving in 1999 to the Armory Center where they run Yono’s and Bumpers Cafe as well as two banquet rooms, they owned the intimate Indonesian/continental restaurant Yono’s on Hamilton Street in downtown Albany for almost 15 years.
A 1998 graduate of Shaker High, Dominick Purnomo began working in the family restaurant when he was in elementary school. When he was 9 years old he would don a tuxedo and cummerbund and join his mother at the front of the house, handing out menus and escorting customers to their table.
When the family gathered for dinner on Sundays, wine was always part of the event. Purnomo and his younger sister, Alexandra (now a student at the University at Albany), were encouraged to taste the wine. Allowing children to sample wine at the dinner table may not be common in this country, but it is in much of the world.
By the time he was in high school, Purnomo was convinced that there was one way his parents’ restaurant could be improved: a better, more expansive wine list. He shared this observation with his father, who encouraged him to make suggestions.
“The kid took the challenge and decided he loved, loved it, loved it,” Donna Purnomo says. “The wine list he put together was more than just impressive. It earned a Wine Spectator award of excellence its very first year.
“Nick has an amazing palate. He seems to remember every wine he’s ever tasted. Yono and I now defer to him with all the wines, and we’ll seek him out for his opinion. When it comes to wines and Nick, I call him Rain Man.”
Yono Purnomo believes his son has his palate. Yono is a native of Indonesia, a Muslim country where alcohol is forbidden. He didn’t taste wine until he was 23, but he remembers he was a quick study with what is fondly called the nectar of the gods.
“When I was young, I had a great palate too,” he says. “You can only taste so much, though, and then it’s gone. I have nothing to do with choosing the wine anymore. I give Nick 130 percent carte blanche to do what he wants to do. I’m really proud of him.”
Into the business
Dominick Purnomo was in many ways a normal teenager. He was on the high school football team. He played the saxophone, fiddled some with the guitar.
When he went to the State University College at Morrisville in the fall of 1998, his parents thought it might be the beginning of a career in law. They thought they had successfully convinced their oldest child not to follow in their footsteps.
They were initially dismayed when he gravitated toward that school’s hospitality and culinary arts program.
“I tried to talk him out of this business,” Yono says. “I screamed and yelled. I said, ‘Don’t you see your father and mother work like a dog every day and have no life?’ I think he loves this business from the front of the house, where it looks glamorous even if it’s not.”
Purnomo says he always knew he would be in the restaurant and hospitality business. It’s a perfect fit for him. He enjoys people, good food and wine.
His ambition is to be a certified master sommelier, a daunting goal to be sure, because there are only 107 in the world. It’s a three-part process that is incrementally tougher at each level.
Purnomo has successfully completed the first stage, but doesn’t expect to attempt the five-day second step until sometime next year. There is a 3.3 percent pass rate for that step. The third and final stage is by invitation only.
“I’m pretty confident that one day I’ll be a master sommelier, I just don’t know when. I don’t know if it’ll be by my 30th birthday or my 50th birthday.
“Everybody wants to excel in their career. It’s like going for a doctorate in whatever your field is. It’s the highest education level you can attain. That’s what being a master sommelier is like.”
Age no issue
Thomas Burke, the 35-year-old sommelier at Friends Lake Inn in Chestertown, is taking the second part of the sommelier certification this summer. He and Purnomo belong to the guild of master sommeliers and see each other regularly at seminars and tastings.
Burke believes Purnomo’s age is a nonissue. “Nick has a sincere passion for food and wine,” he says. “You see it when you talk to him. It’s not just 9-to-5 for him, it’s what he does. I think Nick has a real sincere interest in knowing as much as possible.”
Purnomo is beginning to plan a working vacation to California’s wine country. He wants to go to Napa or Sonoma for a couple of weeks when the grapes are being picked and crushed, and to return the following year for bottling.
“I want to take everything in, to be hands on, to trim the vines, to be part of making the wine in every facet,” he says. “I get excited just thinking about it.
“Wine is my passion. It’s that simple. I’m not an accountant who loves wine at night. I love wine 24 hours a day, and I’m fortunate enough to have wine be my career.”
Yono’s is Truly a Star-Studded Experience – Times Union
By WILLIAM M. DOWD, Associate Editor
First published: Sunday, December 07, 2003
ALBANY — People in the restaurant game play fast and loose with terminology.
Gourmet, for example.
Elegant is another one.
Fine dining. Now, there’s a debatable one.
It’s a rarity, indeed, to find any Capital Region restaurant that provides genuine versions of all three when judged by any reasonable culinary yardstick.
Yono’s, the sole purveyor of Indonesian food in these parts, is such an establishment.
When Widjiono (Yono) and Donna Purnomo moved their restaurant from its original downtown townhouse to the second floor of the Armory Center off Central Avenue four years ago, I rated the new place 3 1/2 of a possible 4 stars, noting, “Why not the full four? Well, it is only in the preview stage, after all, and we have to leave a little room for any improvements that are bound to be made.”
In the ensuing years, the Purnomos have gone beyond mere improvements, abetted by son Dominick, a rising young sommelier and matire d’ whose intense efforts have resulted in an excellent 700-selection wine list that has helped Yono’s attain honors status from top industry magazines.
The extensive menu of Indonesian and continental cuisine is served by a team of tuxedoed waitstaff in a bi-level, 66-seat dining room that is a recreated version of the 19th Century townhouse that was home to the original Yono’s.
Such touches as a mahogany-and-marble service bar, tin ceilings, bronzed mirrors, repurposed old woodwork, wall hangings of Indonesian artwork and culinary awards, floral arrangements and a fireplace create a welcoming atmosphere, helped immeasurably by live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Soft table linens, custom china and Reidel glassware complete the picture.
Constant Companion and I visited in a recent busy Saturday, when the kitchen staff also was handling a private banquet in the downstairs Bumper’s Cafe run by the Purnomos. Service didn’t skip a beat.
An amuse bouche … a complementary little treat before dinner … as we perused the menu was a perfect start with our Grey Goose martinis: tender, plump gnocchis with slices of portobello mushroom and prosciutto in a delicate cream sauce.
To accompany our appetizers and main courses, a 1999 Chateau Gruaud-Larose from Bordeaux was a marvelous pick. The French red is a blend of 65 percent cabernet sauvignon, 25 percent merlot, 8 percent cabernet franc and 2 percent petit verdot. The bouquet is overwhelmingly appealing, ripe with dark fruits, cedar and spices, the flavor bold, the finish long.
We began with a venison appetizer, a succulent set of tender medallions that primed the palate nicely, but couldn’t hold a candle to the clever scallops Romanow … plump diver scallops seared in a wok, paired up with shaved black truffles for a seasonally woodsy taste, and served with a maple syrup/parsnip puree and a sauternes sauce.
After an intermezzo of mandarin orange sorbet, we moved on to the main event: salmon Sfara for Companion, the Nasi Rames platter for me.
Both offerings evoke Yono’s native land, the Indonesian republic that encompasses 17,000 islands and the foods of such exotic lands as Java, Bali, Timor, Sulawesi and Sumatra overlaid by Dutch colonial tastes.
The Atlantic salmon had been poached in chardonnay with saffron and lime leaves, finished in a sauce of saffron and tamarind, the latter a staple of Indonesian cooking, derived from a date-like fruit usually made into a paste or thick juice.
The Nasi Rames is a tasting of various dishes, an excellent way to be introduced to Yono’s fare or an even better way to experience as much of it at one time as possible. In this case, the collection included savory chicken sate (spice-marinated white meat, chargrilled and served with a peanut sauce), kepiting goreng (Maryland lump crabmeat cake with Asian noodles, finished with a citrus mayo and chipotle chili sauce), bakmi goreng (an Indonesian noodle dish with chicken and vegetables in a sweet soy sauce), babi rekap(tender pork tenderloin slices in a coating of sweet soy, ginger and orange rind), ayam panggang (a Java version of spice-rubbed, chargrilled chicken), all served with a little mound of acar (julienned daikon, the white Japanese radish, and carrot) and a crunchy krupuk (shrimp chip).
We couldn’t leave without sampling Donna’s pastries, in this case a deceptively light raspberry walnut layer cake and a chocolate rendezvous creation with a feathery ganache. A pair of digestifs seemed in order, and a Cockburn’s 20-year-old port and a Germain Robin Old Havana brandy were perfect finishing touches.
Our bill, before tip and tax, was $151.80 (without wine and drinks, $85.80, but such a meal cries out for such accompaniment).
Such an experience can result in only one conclusion: 4 stars, emphatically.
Dowd’s reviews are archived online at http://timesunion.com/restaurants. His own travel and food site is http://TasteForTravel.com.
Yono’s Return Enhances Albany’s Dining Stature
By WILLIAM M. DOWD, Staff writer
First published: Sunday, June 11, 2006
The Capital Region had been without Yono Purnomo’s cuisine for 15 months. That was 15 months too long.
The drought ended a little more than a month ago when the latest incarnation of Yono’s restaurant, the third in 20 years, was unveiled at the new Hampton Inn & Suites in downtown Albany.
Having the Purnomo menu — which includes wife Donna’s exquisite baking — available again brightens Albany’s improving dining scene all the more. Having son Dominick, the maitre d’/sommelier, in an enhanced role has done more than one might suspect.
The gregarious 20-something, an honored wine expert beyond his tender years, has put together a 600-label wine list that rivals any. He’s continually on the move, welcoming a patron here, overseeing the team service there, yet continually making people feel as if he’s totally absorbed in their individual experience alone.
From the spare-chic 80-seat space and gleaming bar of DP: An American Brasserie (the initials are Dominick’s) into which patrons enter to the lush 60-seat, bi-level Yono’s dining room in the rear, this is an elegant operation.
As was the case in the last Yono’s site, at the Armory Center, the dining room is designed with a 19th-century town house in mind, a homage to the original Yono’s that was located downtown near the Empire State Plaza. Tin ceilings, original 19th-century woodwork, bronzed mirrors, a crystal chandelier over a centrally located mahogany service table, elegant tableware … all work in concert to evoke a mood of long-ago luxury dining.
Ah, but what about the food? If you must ask, you’ve never experienced Yono’s handiwork.
He has taken to calling it French in style, Asian in influence and American in ingredients. I still call it Indonesian and continental.
Indonesian food is not Chinese, it is not Indian, it is not Japanese. Yes, it has touches of all those — as well as of Dutch and Portuguese from the East Indies’ colonial days — but it is largely its own cuisine that springs from the diversity of plant and sea life that fill the cooking pots of such islands of myth and musicals as Java, Bali, Borneo, Sumatra and Sulawesi.
Our party of four began with an amuse bouche delivered on a tiered serving tray — little bites using escargot and foie gras as their centers. A bottle of Argentine 2004 malbec, from the renowned Trapiche winery under the name Broquel, was a superb accompaniment but, regrettably, the single such bottle in Yono’s cellar.
We moved on to the appetizers: silky diver scallops served over a parsnip puree laced with maple syrup, with a sauternes sauce and shaved black truffles; tender farm-raised alligator medallions sauteed with capers, lemon and wines; a sesame-encrusted big eye tuna with Asian slaw and a wasabi/ginger emulsion. All exquisite.
The entrees maintained the level, with two from the Indonesian side of the menu, two from the continental.
Bakmi goreng taman is a tantalizing Indonesian noodle dish dressed with a sweet soy sauce and dotted with shrimp, chicken and vegetables. Kare udang Maimom is a jumbo shrimp dish soothed with the coconut milk that complements so many spicy Indonesian dishes. The Maimon part of the name honors the origin of the dish, the historic Maimon Palace in Sumatra.
The chicken pastiche Alexondra is a nod to something more modern — the Purnomos’ daughter. It’s a succulent dish of chicken sauteed in a sinfully rich combination of butter, cream and pistachios along with mushrooms and prosciutto. The sliced tenderloin of beef is of the cut-it-with-a-fork variety in a bold sauce of wild mushrooms and vintage port.
Excellent desserts topped off the excellent repast — a Kentucky bourbon nut pie, a sorbet trio, a French vanilla cheesecake and a raspberry walnut torte.
Our bill, before tip, was $297.
My assessment of the operation is the same one I reached back in ’03 when the Purnomos first hit the peak of their collective efforts: Four stars, emphatically.
William M. Dowd can be reached at 454-5411 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org