Sunday, May 4, 2008
Dragonfly Neo-V, Columbus Ohio
Scones are made with butter. Bacon is made with pork fat. Pancakes have milk and eggs in the batter. 'Vegan' is a scary word embraced by tree-huggers and anorexic models. All of the above hold true...if you like to buy into false stereotypes. Welcome to Dragonfly Neo-V where not only are the stereotypes false, but the food and atmosphere are amazing. The building is anything but assuming, nestled just off campus on a street where affordable apartments owned by slummy landlords predominate. On entrance, one sees only a metallic bar, 20 or so seats, and green walls. The soundtrack plays a calm world beat that is occasionally too loud, but never inappropriately so. The servers are present and pleasant, but not overzealous, pushy or pretentious at all. Considering the world wide recognition this restaurant receives, all of the above indicate that success hasn't gone to anyone's head. Even the owner/chef himself was accessible and visible as he worked in the kitchen.
Having never been to Dragonfly but hearing recurrent amazing reviews, my mother, sister, and I decided that their Saturday Brunch would be a best bet to experience the restaurant at a reasonable cost. Brunch consists of two acts, the first a buffet of small plates and the second one of 5 main courses with a "brunch" theme. With the absolute lack of quality breakfast options in Cbus, Dragonfly really didn't have to 'wow' in order to be considered a best bet for breakfast....but wow it did.
The buffet consisted of 7 different items including Portabella bacon with green peppers, rosemary and chive potatoes, black bean soup with sourdough bread, a squash ceviche, macaroni salad, apple/pear/raisin scones, spinach salad with creamy dressing, and a plate of olives, almonds, and vinegar infused warm fruits. While each item on the spread was delicious, specific highlights included the portabella bacon which was perfectly marinated, smoky, and meaty, the vinegar fruits which were sweet and acidic in perfect balance, and the scones which were without a shadow of a doubt the best scones I've ever encountered. Honestly, I have no idea how they accomplished the scones without the use of butter, but the perfect balance of moisture and crispness was spot on and the sweetness of the fruits contrasted flawlessly with the wheaty cinnamon dough.
For our mains, my mother and I selected the Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Ohio Maple Syrup while my sister opted for the Roasted Cauliflower Crepes with mole, dulse, apples, and winter greens. While unexpected in presentation, my sister very much enjoyed her crepes and the spicy/Spanish mole sauce, but she admittedly expected the cauliflower to be pureed and warm. While she enjoyed the dish, after experiencing the mushrooms on the buffet she admitted on future visits she'd opt for the neo-shrooms as her main. The pancakes, unlike the crepes, left nothing more to be desired. The batter (once again, I've no idea how this is accomplished without eggs) was perfectly firm and crisp with a meaty/nutty wholegrain texture while the dark chocolate provided a perfect bittersweet accompaniment to the wonderfully sweet maple syrup. The best pancakes on the planet? Nah....but considering the ingredients used and healthfulness of the meal, stellar.
At $19.50 per person, the price certainly isn't cheap, but neither are the ingredients or the experience. Coffee and 3 varieties of tea were available and as a bit of a coffee snob I must admit their house blend is one of the most full bodied and delicious I've had at breakfast in some time while my sister's green tea was perfectly sweet without the addition of any sweetener. For those who need a morning pick me up, they also offered a number of unique alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails at the bar.
To be honest, I write this review with a bit of embarrassment as I lived so close to Dragonfly for so long and never ventured through the doors during undergrad. Having experienced this brunch, I really cannot praise the simple artful presentation and incredible flavors of any of the dishes enough...chef Wolmark is clearly a master of his craft and well deserving of the praise. While veganism certainly isn't for most, the world could learn a thing or two from such a delicious approach to healthful cooking and those lessons could not only help reverse some stereotypes but perhaps help reverse America's downward trend towards unnatural foods, fast foods, and subsequent obesity. Highly recommended.