Doral: It’s a neighborhood that’s not exactly known for its food scene. Okay, let’s be honest: it’s definitely not known for its food scene. But that’s all changing with the growth of Downtown Doral, a gorgeous mixed-use community (and future hotspot) located on NW 87th Avenue and 53rd Street. Amidst this growth is Dragonfly Izakaya and Fish Market, one of our new favorite restaurants — and one you need to check out ASAP.
Yes, one of our favorite restaurants is in Doral. We can feel you judging us through the computer screen, but hear us out: Dragonfly is the real deal. If you’re a Gator (ew) or visit Orlando a lot, you’ve probably heard of the Japanese restaurant before. Those two locations and the new Doral location focus on different aspects of Japanese cuisine. In Gainesville, the focus is sushi. In Orlando, it’s robata. In Doral, the fish market gets the spotlight.
Honestly, though, the entire menu deserves the spotlight. Everything is shareable — think Japanese tapas — but chances are you won’t want to share. Our Chef’s Tasting encompassed the whole menu, which emphasizes seafood and also includes pork belly, chicken and other delicious, traditional fare.
But it’s the nontraditional bites that really shine. You absolutely need to step out of your comfort zone here. There’s so many different cuts and flavors that deserve your attention. We found it so refreshing that we hadn’t had most of the stuff on the menu. When you eat out as much as we do, menus look repetitive, but this one made us all giddy inside.
Where to start? Japanese fish and chips + the grilled baby octopus — the perfect 1-2 punch to begin your adventure.
When we went, the fish was sea bass, but they told us they’ve been swapping it for halibut and others; your mileage may vary. Regardless: damn. The pillowy batter and crispy lotus rings almost made us forget about the dish’s British counterpart. That Japanese tartar needs to be put on everything.
As for the octopus, it’s cooked on the robata grill. Our waiter put it nicely: Octopus in a caja china. While we admit the tentacles can seem a little intimidating, just breathe, close your eyes if you have to, and take a bite. All fear will disappear once you bite into the octopus, the pickled cucumber, the heirloom cherry tomatoes and the Japanese chimichurri. Eight thumbs up.
We mentioned pork belly earlier, and the Kakuni is a must: Snake River Farms organic pork belly, braised daikon, carrots, tamago, chives and karashi. Not sure what some of those things are, but what we are sure of is that everything together tastes amazing. Crack the egg, mix the yolk in the sauce and watch fireworks happen. The dish is a little on the sweet side, but the spicy mustard (which is easy to miss) helps cut that sweetness and balance everything perfectly.
What’s really cool here — besides pretty much everything — is the neck-to-tail menu, which lets no part of the chicken go to waste. Chicken liver, chicken tail, chicken neck … the list goes on. And each part is only $8, so you can be adventurous and not break the bank. Go all out on this part of the menu. And if you won’t listen to us, maybe you’ll listen to this guy:
Anyway, since this is a fish market, you obviously need to order some. There’s a lot of fish on here that you’ve probably never heard of, and because of that, we recommend you opt for sashimi or nigiri to make the most of their flavors.
You can never go wrong with tuna and salmon — so good — but get out of your comfort zone and order some kanpachi (amber jack) and shima aji sashimi (striped jack), which will make you never look at sushi the same way.
Our meal ended with something a little closer to home: cuatro leches. This “comfortable” dessert was a sweet way to close our out-of-this-world experience. Chris, our awesome server, put it best yet again: “We take you off the reservation, only to bring you back.”
Indeed, Dragonfly makes it easy to expand your palate with exceptional food and a wait staff that’s eager to please and teach patrons about life outside of California rolls. Area restaurants, take note: Dragonfly Izakaya and Fish Market has raised the bar for Doral dining.
Dragonfly Izakaya & Fish Market is located at 5241 NW 87th Ave in Doral. For hours of operation, store locations, and other information, visit their official website or call 305-222-7447.