Oddly for a Chinese style restaurant (and also for me) I thought the dessert was the best of the three courses we ate. Not that the others were bad – they weren’t, but the apple pie was particularly special.
Dragonfly is riding the crest of a wave of popularity, which taken at its peak leads on to the restaurant equivalent of fame and fortune. It was named as one of David Burton’s twenty best modern restaurants in Wellington – a list which includes the very over-rated Charlie Nobel’s where the food is only average and where staff may deign to serve you if they can be bothered.
Popularity is not a reliable guide to quality or authenticity but Dragonfly doesn’t seek the label of best genuinely Chinese restaurant. On the contrary it is determinedly modern and innovative, which is precisely why it resonates with the younger dining out regularly set that filled the bar and tables on the Saturday night we visited.
Our little party of two shared the spring rolls which were three long rolls in a firm case filled with duck, pork and mushroom mince, then cut diagonally and served with a Vietnamese style dipping sauce. One plate had enough to share.
I had the pork and prawn combo where tiger prawns and sliced pork belly were overwhelmed by a rich, thick sauce, stated as “Chinese green garlic and XO sauce.
The prawns were succulent and large, and the sliced pork was tender, and perhaps would have been better with a less enveloping sauce. My partner had salmon two ways – a slice of salmon served on a hot and sour salmon salad with mint and rice – nicely balanced.
We shared some edamame beans (which were frankly stringy and tough and a small nasi goreng which lacked any real oomph but usefully offset the rich sauce.
And so to the dessert: twice baked apple cake. Imagine apple based fruit cake with cinnamon and ginger, served with a wonderful apple cinnamon gelato, studded with crystallised pieces of apple.
I am not normally a dessert person, but this was divine. The Vietnamese coffee is also worth a try. The drip technique is French and the coffee filters into a cup with condensed milk as a base. (Shades of New Zild in the 1950’s when this was cool) As Wellingtonistas are wedded to their strong tartish expresso styles I don’t see the Vietnamese style taking over the market.
Overall Dragonfly has a lot going for it, and I left feeling that there were more dishes I wanted to try. That’s not something I say every time, or even very frequently, so I was well pleased with our excursion into new territory.
(Fans of Fawlty Towers will recall that Dragonfly was the name of the horse that the hapless Basil secretly bet on and then had to pretend to Sybil that the money she found was not his, before he had to pay the lot over to the hard of hearing Mrs Richards because he dropped her valuable vase. Surely that can’t be the reason for the restaurant’s name?