By Mitchell Nover
By now, the secret is out about Drunken Dragon. Nobody is fooled by that random red MARKET sign in a seemingly innocuous strip mall on Alton Road. We’re all very well aware of the surprise décor, super chic vibe, and the Asian-inspired wonders that are feasted upon inside, but that doesn’t mean that Chef Xavier Torres and team don’t continue to surprise us. Case in point: the new brunch menu.
If there was ever a reason to subscribe to the “don’t judge a book by its cover” mentality, it’s with this brunch. While none of the dish descriptions jump off the menu, the secret is in the creativity and innovation that comes across when you taste the food set in front of you. And, that’s what it’s all about right?
The Drunken Dragon brunch menu is also non-traditional in the sense that it’s not laid out in your regular starter, salad, entrée format. This menu was designed to be part street food, part fine dining, and a fully enjoyable experience. You can order as you go (as the food is brought out when ready as opposed to in courses), eat a few at a time, relax and digest, and then order some more. So here’s what I ate:
The Saikyo Miso Quesitos are a riff on Miami’s ever-popular Cuban pastelito. A light and fluffy puff pastry filled with, in this case, a miso-cheese mixture that melts in your mouth. Order one per person from the “Sides” section of the menu to start your meal. These little treats are a great appetite opener and will make your mouth water for what’s to come.
Continue with the Thai Coconut Pancakes for another sweet(ish) bite. A mix of scallions, corn, and shaved fresh coconut, Mel immediately told me that this dish took her back to the streets of Chiang Mai where she enjoyed these with her husband on her honeymoon. And that nuoc cham dipping sauce? I’d bathe in that if someone would let me…
Up next, the DD Waffle. Yes, this is a dish you’d expect to find on any brunch menu, but I found it a nice way to sprinkle in a classic comfort food into your meal as a way to almost stay grounded amongst the other foods. And, these waffles are delicious: the cornmeal waffle is topped with Fuji apples, candied walnuts, mixed berries, and served with a maple glaze.
From there, start making your way over to the savory side of the menu with the Softshell Crab Salad. As a Maryland boy, I can never pass up softshell crab, and this one did not disappoint. Perfectly and lightly fried, the crab is joined in the salad by vodka-infused watermelon (holy crap, were these little bites strong!), pea shoots, hearts of palm, Fresno emulsion, and Thai pesto.
And then, Wagyu Dumplings. Yup, there’s no minced pork or boiled shrimp in there. These dumplings are filled with top quality wagyu beef. Don’t let the $28 price tag fool you, these four little bites are a truly decadent treat. The epitome of elevated street food.
A perfect example of the “don’t judge a book by its cover” thing I was talking about before, is the Taro Truffle Hash. Other than the word truffle, nothing about the dish name or description really jumped out at me. For whatever reason, it just didn’t connect with me on paper, but, boy was I wrong. This combination of a 63 egg, Chinese sausage, corn, snow peas, and taro chips was my favorite dish of the brunch. The egg was so perfectly creamy, and, when mixed up together, coated the sausage while still letting the crisp, fresh flavors of the veggies shine through.
If I’m being honest, the Ramen was a little bit of a letdown for me. This was actually one of the dishes that jumped off the menu the most. Available in shoyu, miso, or kimchi broths with a choice of oxtail, pork, chicken, or vegetables, maybe I chose the wrong combination (kimchi and chicken). Or maybe I had higher expectations from being a big ramen lover. Or maybe it was that the other food I ate just stood out more. Whatever it was, this soup was not bad by any means; it just wasn’t one of my favorites. Would I go back and re-try it with different flavors? You bet I would.
When it came to dessert, I went with a more traditional choice with the Choco Jar (above) that brought chocolate custard, brownie bites, cashew crumbles, and hot chocolate foam, but also an unconventional Créme Brûlée (below), which came deconstructed with a bunch of Asian herbs and tropical fruit flavors.
And, of course, what would a brunch be without booze? The #BlameitontheBrunch cocktail section is very enticing, and I decided to try the refreshing Cuczaki (Hiro sake, cucumber, Plymouth St. Germain, yuzu) and the spicy Ninja Cuya (Casamigos blanco, passion fruit, cayenne, ancho reyes). It should also be noted that Drunken Dragon offers bottomless mimosas for only $20, and with 6 flavors to choose from (orange, blood orange, mango, lychee, passion fruit, and strawberry), you should easily be able to break the profit barrier on that one. Just be sure to order an Uber to get home.
Finally, if you’re not much of a drinker, don’t worry. Drunken Dragon’s drink menu also has an impressive list of non-alcoholic drink choices like Fresh Squeezed Watermelon Juice and Indonesian Jamu Tea (tamarind, turmeric, honey).
Mitch’s take: Launched just over a month ago, the Drunken Dragon brunch menu is like no other brunch menu in Miami. Just like the juxtaposition of the restaurant’s exterior and interior looks, the menu is also deceptively simple, yet completely polished and absolutely delicious. This brunch is great to experience with a group of friends, and with four or more people, you can easily get a taste of the full menu without feeling like you’ve overdone it on your belly or your bank account.
Standout dish: Man, did that Taro Truffle Hash leave an impression. I love being proved wrong and this dish completely and unexpectedly put me in my place. While referencing a breakfast classic, Chef Torres reframed it in a new context of Asian flavors in a way that totally impressed me and left me wanting more.