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; https://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.
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