Purple Monkey is a dessert and drink restaurant that opened about six months ago on University Drive. It’s in the section of the strip mall that isn’t easily visible from the street, so take the extra minute to drive through the lot and find it.
Hopefully you like pink, which spills all over the walls. The seating layout is minimalist, with small potted plants dotting each of the tables.
And when the weather is nice, there is outdoor seating to enjoy the chilled drinks.
The menu is extensive. It takes up most of the wall, even with somewhat fine print. Diners can choose from a plethora of boba tea, smoothies, ice cream, and other drinks.
They also offer Dippin Dots, a personal favorite. These small spheres are made by filtering liquid ice cream through a sieve, then the droplets are flash frozen with liquid nitrogen as they fall through the holes.
Luckily we tried several options. To only review one dessert would clearly have been irresponsible of us.
This is the Red Bean Boba Tea ($4.75 for 20 oz). It is a red bean flavored velvety slush with a generous heap of its namesake topping that floats to the surface.
The Piña Colada Smoothie ($5.75 for 20 oz) is excellent. A slice of fresh pineapple arises like an iceberg from the ocean of pineapple and coconut. Tapioca pearls line the sea floor and schools of jelly and lychee swim around the cup.
The Thai Tea, third in this photo, features a strong tea leaf flavor without the overpowering sweetness that could easily dominate similar drinks. It’s joined by the soft, slippery tapioca pearls that are shared by many of Purple Monkey’s creations. It can be prepared with almond milk for those who don’t enjoy lactose. The Cookies N’ Cream Ice Frappuccino, at the far right, is more cookies than cream. The ice crystals are coarser than one would enjoy in a popular coffee brand’s Frappuccino, and the sweet drink is more like a solid dessert.
Above is a custard that is baked inside of an acorn squash. An egg-based mixture is poured into the center of a carved-out fruit and then the entire item is steamed. The center has a very strong egg flavor and the usually hard rind gives to a fork and falls apart like wet paper. Because of the eggs, this tasted more like breakfast than dessert.
The Coconut Cake is a three-layered dessert with fluffy cake alternating with creamy coconut icing. Shredded coconut sneaks its way between and above the moist pillows of cake. A scoop of ice cream joins the party as well. Even though this tower of sugar had trouble staying upright, it was our second favorite item on the menu, just behind the next item.
The Shaved Ice ($4.99 for a large) is replete with plenty of color and flavor. A mountain of fresh fruit, red bean topping, mochi, bursting boba, and condensed milk threatens to topple over the edge of the paper cup.
The snow here is flavored with a wonderful green tea matcha, which is a secret menu item. Ask for it!
Fortunately in Durham, we have a climate that is warm enough to allow for people to enjoy dessert for many months of the year. Come try some (mostly) Asian beverages and desserts.
4015 University Drive, Durham, NC 27707