Dragonfly’s minimal street façade lends no hint of its contents to Courtenay’s passers-by. Step inside though, and you enter a richly atmospheric establishment with a contemporary twist on tastes of the Orient.
“Dragonfly’s flavour is 'Modern Southeast Asian',” our waitress informs us as we sit before promising her return in a few minutes. I note the pleasing tablescape - an origami-esque folded menu resting on a Japanese olive green sunburst-glazed ceramic plate, reflecting the light cast by the oil lamp on the wooden table. I feel as though most restaurants resort to ye olde white plate to serve their dishes, but Dragonfly’s quirky tableware really visually accented the meal to its advantage.
At the waitress’ return, we’d selected the night’s lineup. With my noble dining companion in charge of ordering drinks, we opted for a Waipara Hills Gewürztraminer ($11 glass, $34 carafe, $48 bottle). With its smooth, low acidity and notes of pear and lychee, it was the perfect accompaniment to our forthcoming choice of dishes. Tempted by the staggering length of the cocktails list, I decided to try the Last Samurai ($16), built in an angular glass on Chambord, vodka and Limonata. Bursting with fresh limes, mint and raspberries, it’s an excellent tipple.
Eyeing up ‘something small' on the menu, we decided to sample the salt and pepper chicken ($14), spring rolls ($16) and a side of Edamame beans ($8). The real standout were the spring rolls which were made from rich and flavoursome free range pork and duck. The salt and pepper chicken’s orange and hoisin sauce sliced sweetly through the crumbed peppery pieces and was a well composed balance of flavours too. Having once lived on edamame beans for four days, the tossed coating of sesame oil, black sesame and a shake of chilli on Dragonfly's variation reignited my love for the dish.
Both in the mood for fresh, our ‘something more’ duo duly delivered - fresh green papaya salad ($23) and salmon two ways ($29). The papaya burst with flavours of Vietnamese mint and coriander among its julienned strands. The salmon was divine - the hot and sour salad, with green banana slices, lime and mint played host to char-grilled salmon fillet and green-tea smoked shards smattered throughout the dish. My only note was the complementary nature of the two mains, to the point of almost being too similar. If you're after sharing your meals diversity in choice is key. Given another chance, going for a richer second main, perhaps the red duck or Angus beef curry would have been a better ordering strategy.
After a ‘few more minutes please - maybe four or so?’ our waitress ventured back to retrieve our dessert choice. Unanimously, we finally decided on the mini dessert tasting ($22, recommended for two people). Quite full by this stage, it was a perfect size for having a little taste without the bulk of a larger dish. Revolving daily, dishes of note were the coconut lime panacotta, in all its zesty, smooth glory, and the warming Black Doris sticky rice. The perfect accompaniment to dessert was a plum wine served over ice ($9 glass), its deep flavour complementing every morsel on the plate.
One blooming jasmine tea ($6.50) later, we stepped back out into the busy capital impressed at the little gastronomical slice of Southeast Asia on Courtenay Place. Whether you’re new to Asian cuisine or a regular wanting to try something exciting, you’ll fast become fond of Wellington’s little Dragonfly.