Southern Comfort

New Dayton, Ky. bistro Purple Poulet typifies Southern cuisine and hospitality

click to enlarge Voodoo Salmon and other Southern-inspired suppers pepper the menu at Purple Poulet.
Voodoo Salmon and other Southern-inspired suppers pepper the menu at Purple Poulet.

ll give you two guesses as to what prevalent color scheme immediately greets you at Dayton, Ky.’s newest Southern bistro, Purple Poulet, but you’ll only need one.

And just as brightly as the color purple welcomes patrons, so does the staff running the show. A couple of girlfriends and I went to dine on a recent midweek night, and while we did not have reservations, we were promptly seated in a bustling, near-full dining room.

As we settled in, we were presented with a wine and cocktail list and informed that either one of two waitresses would be with us shortly. Purple Poulet brands itself as a Southern bourbon bistro, emphasis on the bourbon.

They boast an extensive bourbon collection, one of the largest in the area, and the spirit is woven into many of their dishes.

Unfortunately, I am not a bourbon drinker, so I passed on their specialty cocktails. A friend of mine did take on the “when in Rome” attitude and ordered a bourbon lemonade drink.

I tried it and was impressed by how not overwhelming the bourbon was, thanks to the lemonade, something my friend enjoyed as well.

We started our meal with a dish called The Egg Came First! ($9), which included two scratch biscuits topped with pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes and a fried egg. The biscuits themselves were extremely satisfying. They were dense yet fluffy, with the right amount of crumble. I would like to advocate for biscuits to be the next chic pastry, carving out their own specialty space next to donuts, macarons and cupcakes.

As an appetizer, the combination of fried egg, fried tomato and pimento cheese atop a well-made biscuit was an understandably filling start, but the two shared between three people was enough to be satisfying without ruining dinner.

Our trio decided immediately that we wanted to share all entrées family-style. In doing so, we were considerate in choosing options across the board, and we decided upon the Fried Chicken and Waffle ($17), the KY Coq Au Vin ($18) and the Voodoo Salmon with Saffron Purloo ($24).

The fried chicken and waffle was the dish I anticipated the most and the one that I took the lead with as my own when ordering.

When the dish arrived, my immediate (and out-loud) reaction was an expletive. Atop a plate-sized waffle sat four pieces of fried bird — a leg, wing, breast and thigh. If I had gone in alone here, I would hope someone would have stepped in to intervene, because that is simply too much. Luckily, I was sharing.

While expectations ran high, the reality of the dish was low. I worked up my first bite, making sure it had one of everything — a slice of chicken and waffle, swiped thoroughly through the pecan butter and maple-bourbon syrup. But it was disappointing. I wasn’t sure what the issue was, so I worked back through each ingredient individually.

The fried chicken itself was good, but the waffle was not a “regular” waffle — it was a sweet potato-bacon-cornbread waffle.

The waffle sounded promising, but didn’t deliver. It was bland and had a soggy texture, which did nothing for the chicken, which was already soaking in syrup.

However, one of the other dishes was a surprising crowd favorite. The KY Coq Au Vin was flavorful and light. The bourbon-brined breast was excellent.

The brine rendered the chicken juicy and stark white, and the red-wine bacon gravy was full of flavor.

The gal who claimed this as her order made a smart move and substituted the creole grits with mashed sweet potatoes. Even though I can’t speak to the original pairing, I do feel that the sweet potatoes were a great way to go. As opposed to the waffle, these sweet potatoes not only stood on their own, but also complemented the drunken bird deliciously.

The final dish was the Voodoo Salmon. This too was one I had my eye on while reviewing the menu online before officially making my way to the restaurant, so I was excited when the third musketeer in the group had the same interest and chose this as “hers.”

My familiarity with Voodoo dishes set me up to believe this would be a thick, creamy dish. But the Cajun-seared, sweet-chili glazed salmon was served with other small bites of shellfish, creamed rice and a tomato-based broth. Of everything we ate, this dish registered as the least fried or creamy.

My friends and I ultimately sat around and gabbed for a while post-meal, each indulging in an extra round of our respective drinks. This was a testament to the comfortable and inviting atmosphere, one made that way thanks to the maître d’, the waitress and an end-of-meal visit from the chef, Rich Zumwalde or “Chef Z.”

In the end, Purple Poulet shines brightest when it comes to hospitality and service, though there certainly are gems among its creative culinary offerings as well.


GO:

603 Sixth Ave., Dayton, Ky.; CALL:

859-916-5602;

INTERNET:

Searchable on Facebook ;

HOURS:

5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
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