Earlier this month, Japanese eatery Dragonfly opened at 5241 NW 87th Ave. in downtown Doral. It marks the third location of Dragonfly brand, but owners Hirofumi Leung and Song Kim insist that each version has its own special flair. While the Gainesville spot is sushi-centric and Orlando’s location is based on open-flame grilling, Dragonfly Doral is inspired by authentic izakayas.
In Japan, izakayas are a type of casual neighborhood drinking and dining destination for everyone from businessmen seeking a postworkday drink to groups of friends enjoying a fun night out.
Dragonfly’s 6,000-square-foot Doral space takes this concept up a notch with an expansive dining room, a full bar, and an adjoining market. Libations include signature craft cocktails, an array of sake variations, and some of the top Japanese whiskeys. The market will open soon and offer bento boxes, grab-and-go meals, and fresh sushi-grade seafood. A few shelves also hold premium Japanese ingredients and cookware alongside edible mementos of Leung’s childhood, like shrimp chips.
The restaurant has plenty of outdoor seating and even a window opening into the bar, but the dining room is pleasantly sophisticated, with rich, warm colors and modern accents.
Angular and industrial lighting fixtures extend from the high ceilings, and vibrant reds are splashed throughout the interior. Toward the center of the room hangs an intricate metal chandelier crafted to appear like a massive fish hooked suspended midair, with glowing glass spheres of “bait” engulfed in its stomach.
The piece is a nod to the restaurant’s fare, which remains seafood-centric despite its evident distinction from typical American sushi places.
The menu is a showcase of diverse Japanese dishes. Maitake mushroom fritters with truffle salt and tentsuyu ($8) are a refined take on the usual tempura appetizer, and oysters ($2 to $4 each) offer a glimpse into culinary director Ray Leung’s flair for fresh ingredients.
The colorful cauliflower goma miso ($10) turns the humble vegetable into an unexpected centerpiece of this savory dish, adorned with sweet golden raisins and a crunch of pine nuts.
When it comes to sushi, Dragonfly’s maki rolls achieve the right balance of authenticity and inspired deviation from the classics. The ryu roll ($18) features salmon with cucumber and a “snow crab delight” on a duo of eel and kobachi sauces. It’s then topped with avocado and tuna – torched ever so slightly – along with tempura flakes, a togarashi spice mixture, and lemon zest.
The addition of citrus makes another appearance in the sea kai roll ($16), made with fresh salmon and a creamy crab mixture. Italian ingredients such as tomato and balsamic, paired with a garlic shiso chimichurri, create a global profile of flavors and textures.
Though opting for a seafood-only meal can be tempting, don't pass up some of the heartier entrées for a true Dragonfly experience. Wagyu short ribs ($14) are tender enough to pull apart with chopsticks, and skewered options such as the gyutan ($10) (beef tongue with ponzu) and bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms ($7) are a reminder that the merits of Japanese cuisine extend beyond the sushi bar.
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The four leches ($8) offers an almost overly sweet ending, but the sugary dish is aided by the thoughtful addition of matcha and toasted peaks of meringue.
Dragonfly is known for serving good times and great flavors, and Leung is determined to keep the brand from outgrowing itself. “There will never be more than five locations,” he vows.
A go-to place for everything from a casual happy hour to a special occasion, Dragonfly is a welcome addition to the up-and-coming area of downtown Doral.