Posted 12 June 2005 - 06:30 AM
Dragonfly’s décor is I guess casbah-like, as part of setting a Moroccan-fusion theme. Outside guests were sweltering at a lavish pool party, not helped by air misters that looked like they needed a few more kinks to work out, since thick clouds of mist were constantly billowing forth from them, only adding to the oppressive humidity (for Dallas) that night.
If this is any indication, the standout of the night was the service, particularly Clayton, our waiter. Immensely knowledgeable, energetic, and engaging without being intrusively so. He was just very much on top of every need we’d have: he knew exactly how many bottles of what wine were available (“we only have one of those left, would you like to make another choice in case it’s been taken?”), when one of us strained to read something in the dim light of the room, a pocket flashlight immediately materialized. He enthusiastically provided the information I gave above regarding ZaZa and Dragonfly’s expansion plans, and seemed quite excited about having Mark and a large swath of his staff (we recognized a few former servers from Green Room as we were seated) aboard.
Cassell is still finalizing his version of the menu, so most of the items currently on the menu are holdovers from the previous chef. There were, however, a number of Cassell’s own creations as off-menu items, and Clayton reeled off a bewildering array of them, almost as many as on the menu itself. In keeping with the décor, there is a definite Moroccan/North African theme to the food offered, with predictable Asian notes (seemingly de rigueur of a fusion place anymore) thrown in as well.
I had the tuna tartare (on the menu), and a “fennel cured” pork loin special. My wife had the crispy calamari salad and lobster pasta, both on the menu items I believe. My mom had beetroot salad and the lamb tagine, and my dad had the Mediterranean salad and a chicken, boned out, rubbed with spices and rolled around a “boudin” of foie gras, and roasted.
The tuna tartare was pretty good, with a smoky flavor (helped along by the slightly too-ample avocado) throughout. My wife’s calamari salad was the standout: fried rings of calamari, tatsoi and mizuna (sp?) greens tossed with a sweet, spicy soy dressing. My mom was disappointed in her beetroot salad, which was described as having cambozola, the best of both worlds between camembert and blue cheese, and one of her favorites, but was simply large crumbles of plain blue cheese instead, and they overwhelmed the other ingredients. Dad said his salad was nothing special either.
The entrees were roundly disappointing. My pork was cooked just right but I’m not sure what “fennel cured” even means, since there was no flavor of it in the dish. There was too much of the cucumber sauce, it took up half the plate. The rice pilaf and five haricot vertes beans seemed an afterthought. My wife’s pasta, while generous with the lobster, was underseasoned and the sauce seemed a little gluey. The tagine, however, was a standout in the disappointment department. The lamb was tough, and the couscous was studded with bits of the salted cured lemons used in Moroccan cooking, but they tasted like little bits of Pinesol-cured leather when you bit into one. Finally, I’m going to hypothesize that this wasn’t even cooked in the tagine, but it was simply used as a serving vessel: the inside of the dish was immaculately clean and dry. Desserts (molten chocolate cake and rum ice cream, the crème brulee) were competent but certainly not memorable.
As head Chef of the Green Room, Mark Cassell was able to expertly combine the elements of Asian, Southwestern, and Mexican cuisines, teasing out a single flavor or idea and making the dishes sing. At Dragonfly, I think he’s under pressure and out of his element in conforming to the Moroccan theme. He’s not quite there yet with the flavor combinations and incorporating them into his larger tapestry: again going back to the lamb, the dish had a prevailing, distracting sweetness to it and blast of cinnamon, both elements of Moroccan cooking, but should be used much more deftly or interwoven with other flavors to mute their effect. Likewise with my pork dish, its clear he was aiming for some sort of pork “shwarma” concept fused with Asian flavors, and was hampered further by an anise-cured pork dish already on the menu, so he has to work with fennel instead, which lost out in the larger flavor spectrum. His new menu will launch later this summer, and hopefully he’ll get the kinks out by then. Still, much as I have faith in his capabilities, this is an uphill battle: Moroccan is a complex cuisine, and to work it in to the fusion spectrum is even more so. Now throw in that this is to be a franchise concept duplicated elsewhere, and I worry that this may be the wrong direction for both him and the restaurant.
Posted 26 February 2007 - 07:50 AM
Everything on the menu looked good and, as with our first visit, the daily specials significantly outnumbered the regular menu items. We decided to actually go with a salad item and then two apps for a complete meal since they all sounded the most enticing. I had oyster shooters, a pecorino and arugula salad with bacon vinaigrette and a poached egg, and quail with beans. Other apps ordered were rock shrimp "lollipops", beef cheek and feta raviolo, pistachio-crusted mozzarella, and steamed mussels with champagne and jalapenos. Only the quail I'd say was a disappointment: a little bland and undercooked. Everything else, however, notably the shooters and raviolo, were outstanding. I'm glad we gave it a second try.
Interestingly, it would appear that plans have been scaled back a little, or maybe our waiter on the first visit was speculating. There's only plans for a Houston outlet, but the Dragonfly there will be run independently by its own exec chef.
Posted 26 February 2007 - 04:50 PM
Posted 21 August 2007 - 03:07 PM
ETA: I'm waaay behind the curve here. This was back in April, so shortly after our last visit.
Edited by Kevin72, 21 August 2007 - 03:17 PM.