Let’s face it; most people go to brunch mostly to gossip about last night’s escapades and suck down mimosas, not to experience great food. If you are looking for something a little more inventive than French toast or bacon and eggs, you might want to take the Q train down to Purple Yam in Ditmas Park. Owners Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa, longtime neighborhood locals, serve up Filipino brunch fare that you won’t find anywhere else in New York.
First, you’ll want to order the ukoy, a crispy, tangled fritter of fried shrimp and vegetables. Think of it as a lighter, crunchier version of a Japanese okonomiyaki, meant to be topped with tangy vinegar instead of a sweet sauce. Another must is the fresh lumpia, a rice crepe stuffed with sauteed Napa cabbage, leeks and mushroom, served with a pleasantly pungent peanut and tamarind sauce.
The best thing I ate Saturday morning was the pancit luglug, a dish of thick rice noodles filled with perfectly cooked shrimp. Now, being half-Filipino myself, I’ve enjoyed many varieties of pancit noodles. These were as good as I’ve ever had them, served with boiled egg in a sweet sauce with a savory touch thanks to homemade shrimp stock.
While vegetarian options are available, it’s the meat dishes that really shine. Consider the beef tapa. Cuts of flank steak are marinated, sliced thin and then air-dried before the kitchen pan-fries them and serves them over garlic-fried rice with fried eggs. This Filipino variation on steak and eggs is guaranteed to soak up any booze from last night and very likely to lead to an afternoon nap. The ultimate gut-buster on the menu, however, is the lechon kawali, thick chunks of deep-fried pork belly served with vinegar and pickled papaya.
If you haven’t yet succumbed to a food coma, ending the meal with a bibingka just might do it. It’s a dessert-like, fluffy rice cake baked in a banana leaf and filled with Gouda and feta cheese. One thing is for sure; after brunch here, you’re going to want to take a long walk among the neighborhood’s historic Victorian homes, both to admire how beautiful they are and to burn off the week’s worth of calories you probably just ingested.
1314 Cortelyou Road, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn