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
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