By Mitchell Nover
Dragonfly Izakaya & Fish Market (5241 NW 87th Ave, Doral) is not your traditional Japanese restaurant. While it’s rooted in Japanese comfort food, its menu is a globally-inspired take on traditional Izakaya (aka Japanese gastropub) dishes. In addition to a raw bar, and extensive sushi and sashimi selection, Dragonfly also features a progressive beverage program and an adjoining fish market will nod to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan where guests can participate in educational seafood workshops and purchase items ranging from house-made bottled sauces to fresh seafood sourced locally and from exotic waters across the globe.
Menu highlights: I recently visited Dragonfly for Sunday brunch, yet another unique example of the Asian-inspired take on everyone’s favorite weekend meal that are seemingly popping up all over Miami. The menu, as you would expect, offers up an interesting mix of Japanese classic dishes alongside some fusion-y interpretations of traditional brunch plates. While there is a fixed price menu option (3 courses for $27), I personally think Sundays at Dragonfly are best enjoyed as a family-style experience, because, at brunch, sharing is caring. Here’s what I ate:
Seafood Okonomiyaki. A Japanese seafood pancake with shrimp, octopus, squid, cabbage, Japanese mayo, and bonito flakes that is definitely not your typical brunch pancake. For many, it might seem like a lot for a mid-to-late-morning meal (especially if you’re hungover), but this bad boy packs an umami flavor punch that is totally worth the step outside your comfort zone.
Crispy White Fish Steamed Bao. If you’re feeling lunch-y, this crispy halibut bun will hit the spot. The Roma tomato and lettuce help to lighten things up, and the Japanese tartar sauce melds nicely into the bun for a pretty delicious bite.
Japanese Fried Chicken & Waffles. This one is always tough to pass up on any brunch menu, and Dragonfly’s version does not disappoint. The free range chicken and bourbon syrup hit all the right notes, and the Japanese infusion of the moffle (mochi + waffle) and Okinawa sugar push this dish into a new creative territory that is a surprising winner.
Citrus Pavlova with Pear and Yuzu. A perfect, light finish to a meal that leans toward the heavier side. It’s fruity, it’s citrusy, it’s sweet. It’s not at all overbearing and still gives you that dessert bite you’ve been craving.
Standout dish: The Kurobuta Benedict is everything that an Asian-fusion brunch should be. This benedict-bao hybrid is chock full of deliciousness with Snake River Farms pork belly, shiso, a beautifully steamed bao, and yuzu miso hollandaise. Speaking of that hollaindaise, the yuzu tang really helps to push this dish over the edge. It brightens where most other hollandaises weigh down even the best of benedicts. Izaka-yasssss!!!
Are we boozing? It’s brunch, so yet. That said, while all-you-can-drink Mimosas, Saké Sangria, and Bloody Hariguchis (with saké replacing vodka) are available for only $18, they don’t quote show off the true beauty of Dragonfly’s cocktail offerings. The restaurant’s bar is highlighted by a a rare and award-winning Japanese whiskey list, a seasonal Omakase cocktail list, a unique sake and shōchū list, and a Japanese ice program. If you’re going to drink during your brunch experience, I would go with something from one of those lists – like the Perfect Matcha: St. George Terrior gin, Gran Classico bitters, matcha-infused honey syrup, a splash of fresh lemon juice, egg whites, and lemon zest.
Mitch’s take: Not being a Florida native or a UF alum, I didn’t really know what to expect from Dragonfly. On paper, a Japanese restaurant in Doral that’s an expansion of a Gainseville-started chain is not a place that would generally make it to the top of my list… But, you know what? I was wrong. Dragonfly delighted and dazzled and deserves a spot on your brunch bucket list.