The glamorous nature of haute cuisine breeds mystification with elan. But we think clarity is the real marker of achievement, especially in the restaurant industry. When critics and opinion leaders establish a new normal every few months, you feel guilty about asking questions. About voicing that you’re not a fan of what’s been set down in front of you. Kitchens, then, get too comfortable, and don’t feel the pressure to innovate. The stifling result? You encounter the same stuffed roulade or artisanal flatbread everywhere you go.
In such an atmosphere, it takes nerve to move away from trendy instruction, and to pin your laurels entirely on the food. It’s even more difficult to make a dent when your competitive landscape is Aerocity, a neighbourhood that’s slowly turning into Delhi’s fine dining mecca. But ever since its opening this year, Dragonfly Experience has sustained its flight with brazen confidence.
Don’t get us wrong—this is no pared-down foodhall. The decor is massively opulent, with jewelled butterflies, floating heads and mosaic-slicked walls tied together with a sense of whimsy. But the menu is so vast, and so distractingly good, that you can’t help but shift focus. Resting on the fact that very little of a dragonfly’s life is spent as an adult, the food is Dionysian, and draws from several influences. The inspiration may sound fleeting, or even a bit morbid, but it works well for diners looking to splurge on the very best without filling up too quick. Case in point: instead of the usual shaved truffle on a mound of spaghetti, we tried it flaked into broccoli and chestnut dumplings, and in crunchy sushi with feta and arugula.
For the protein puritans among us, there was more traditional Atlantic salmon wrapped in mame nori, but we particularly enjoyed its creative use in a salad. Combining salt, richness, acid and heat, it saw fatty fish bristle against rocket and heirloom tomatoes, with shallots and pomelo offering zingy respite. Manners went out the window when it came to polishing off this plate, and we couldn’t resist swirling the salmon along the chilli dressing with our fingers more than once. Raw seafood hasn’t always been up our alley, but their hamachi ceviche with scallions, yuzu and blueberries, too, was undeniably outstanding.
Given that the high-energy Badshah is a co-owner, the ‘experience’ part of Dragonfly is no joke. Spread over 10,000 sq ft, the restaurant is cavernous, and split into sections that could function as their own bug-themed ecosystems. We found the property perfect for anniversaries, bachelorette celebrations, classy social ‘dos, or even the indulgent family dinner. The kids certainly wouldn’t mind—apart from the mishmash of glittering design and live music, the menu is dotted with pop culture motifs. When we ordered our mocktails from Dragonfly’s Mixology Manga (named after Pokémon fan favourites Pikachu, Squirtle and Bulbasaur), each page featured illustrations from popular Japanese comics. It looks like they’ve avoided copyright violations with some amusing adjustments, but let’s not get into that.
Post our barrage of impeccably-plated appetisers, we never actually got to the main course. However, if the former is anything to go by, the Asian-inspired fare at Dragonfly surpasses its European friends in terms of cohesively combining the counterintuitive. The khow suey pizza, for instance, with its crushed peanuts and cheese lumpia-style base, was far more intriguing than the decadent carbonara dumpling. When it came to classics, the Cantonese char siu bao, again, was miles ahead of the thick-cut sweet potato fries. Understandably, some of the experimentation felt like a miss. We weren’t fans of the tempura; no amount of spicy mayo could salvage the one made with white pumpkin, nor the more daring variant featuring lamb brain pâté. However, we have to give it to the chefs’ willingness to try gutsy pairings.
Right now, Dragonfly Experience is the hottest restopub in town. Its snazzy interiors, culinary adventurousness and embracing of the eclectic is unlike any place we’ve visited in the recent past. But when it comes to championing the good life, the next big thing is always on the horizon.
Meals are priced at approximately Rs 4,000 for two.
Address: Dragonfly Experience, Worldmark 1, Aerocity, New Delhi, Delhi 110037. +91-7303759996