Swat it!

Dragonfly darts with a tedious buzz

In one sense, Dragonfly Bar & Restaurant perfectly mimics its namesake. Like the insect, this lower Greenville haunt darts, ascends, turns sharply, stops on a dime, and drop-shifts into reverse as it travels a number of directions all in one flight plan.

Is it a hip music venue? Is it a mating pen for the fashionably primped and pinched? Or is it a cutting-edge culinary showcase where pan-crusted Camembert attempts to dazzle the palate (a far too sweet appetizer with cheese and big, fat gushing black berries wrapped in puff pastry).

No, this slick bug hut is not any one of these things. It's something more. It embraces a profundity more potent than even the bar-hovering herd of dinky-skirted Martini slurpers and their hovering stud buddies could imagine. For, as the menu states with eloquence, Dragonfly is a "'Nouveau Eco' concept containing earthy resources such as water, granite, wood and an abundance of metals...The elements all lending themselves to create the environment in which our namesake, the 'Dragonfly,' thrives."

Which is why we see so many dragonflies are abandoning the low-rent swamp, bog, and pond neighborhoods for swanky car dealerships and high-rise foyers.

The menu proceeds with even more flourishes. "Once inside, the customer and the Odonate [that would be dragonflies and damselflies] become one...Wings now spread, one travels upwards through the beautifully patined staircase to the rooftop patio. Once there, the open air excites and awakens and one becomes an accomplished aerialist darting, stopping, and then reversing directions, all while hovering above the hustle and bustle of the famous lower Greenville strip."

Such moving prose--as in it makes you want to move to a nice, sane lunch counter, where the only bug theme is an overloaded no-pest strip hanging above the grill and the closest thing to philosophizing on the menu is "In God we trust. All others pay cash."

Still, Dragonfly does have some cool design touches: a granite waterwall hood over the bar and a big metal Starship Troopers-type bug crawling on the wall out front. It also has some that fall flat. Virtually all of the plants in the place are dead, for instance--an inexcusable example of bad bog etiquette.

And then there are these odd jellyfish-like sconces clinging to the walls. Even your average biological sciences illiterate knows that dragonflies and jellyfish rarely party in the same watering hole.

But eco-pretensions rarely exhibit concern for accuracy. Or, for that matter, good eating.

Twenty-thousand leagues calamari was a plate of rubbery squid veneered in a chalky, back-to-school-adhesive breading. It belonged 20,000 leagues under a landfill.

Tortellini in a walnut cream sauce suffered from overcooked pasta choked by a runny, sour ooze, with clunky hunks of nuts. Marinated kabobs (a choice of beef or chicken) were far better. Soaked in a tangy balsamic raspberry vinaigrette, the meat was on a skewer with red and green bell peppers, onion, and mushroom. It was chewy, moist, and rich. Plus, the bed of rice pilaf was reasonably fluffy. But a side of grilled vegetables--zucchini, tomato, and squash--was mushy and sour.

Chef Erick Chavez, a Dallas restaurant consultant who helped open Mona Luna Restaurant and Club among other metroplex venues, says he traversed Greenville Avenue, sampling the fare in a drive to develop distinctive American eclectic cuisine. "What I did is, I went everywhere and tried the food and then went in exactly the opposite direction," he says.

Maybe he should have used his turn signal instead of his reverse gear. Skimmer chops-- fresh-cut lamb chops in a salsa of onion, tomato, mint, and feta in a Burgundy stock reduction--was actually a noble attempt at some interesting flavor contrasts. But the small chops were drastically overcooked, tough, chewy, and desiccated. Plus, they shared the plate with scorched thyme-roasted new potatoes and ho-hum vegetable rice pilaf, all for 20 bucks.

Stick with the chef's choice pasta specials instead. The angel hair concoction with garlic, mushrooms, spinach, tomato, and capers was lightly dressed and appropriately supple: a simple, pleasant dish.

Developed by nightclub and entertainment businessman Steven Kahn, Dragonfly was formerly the New London Tavern before it was gutted and remodeled as a habitat for damselflies. It has a mezzanine, an elevated row of booths lining one wall, and live jazz evenings Wednesday through Saturday. But there's no dance floor per se. As Chavez says, folks just kind of twitch and wiggle in their personal space, which can make for some pretty bumpy dining, as the tables butt right up against the musicians.

If your aim is to primp and posture in a place where "the customer and the odonate become one," then there's no better place than Dragonfly. But if fine cuisine is your quest, well, buzz over to another lily pad.

Asian cuisine thrives in the mouth when it' s a balance of clean, assertively bright flavors sculpted with the freshest possible ingredients. Lacking these elements, the food descends into an abundance of plodding adequacy--or worse.

Miss Saigon skirts the latter, but otherwise just plods on. The food just doesn't seem constructed with the care and meticulousness that makes Asian cuisine shine.

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