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Veggie Dishes Take Flight at Dragonfly Mandarin

By John DiGilio in Food on Dec 7, 2010 9:30PM

2010_11_DiGilio_Dragonfly.jpgJust because an vegetable came from the good, green earth does not mean that it has been prepared in a manner that is either delicious or good for you. Deep frying, over-salting, boiling, and a myriad of other cooking methods can rob vegetables of their crispness, color, and nutritional value. We've all eaten at cheap Chinese restaurants where over-stir-frying and heavy sauces turn veggie dishes into bland, mushy messes. The cooks at Dragonfly Mandarin, however, have managed to beat the norm, serving up vegetarian dishes that retain their fresh taste and the crunch that Mother Nature intended.

Dragonfly Mandarin is more than just another Chinese restaurant. It is an Asian-inspired martini bar that serves up eclectic fusion dishes and colorful cocktails. The menu starts with an array of small plates, appropriately labeled “Teasers”, and then winds its way through a series of quirky, yet fitting, categories. “From the Garden” is all about salads and “From the Pot”, of course, is where you will find the soups. “Meat”, “Fowl” and “From the Waters” all speak for themselves. Vegetarians will be delighted to see a section just dedicated to “Greens” and another to “Grains”; these are dishes that can be made without meat or can include tofu. The choices are tempting and each comes with either jasmine white or organic brown rice.

We started our meal with two choices from the Teasers menu. The “garlicky tofu” was nearly a meal in itself. Six large cuts of tofu were laid before us, crispy on the outside, soft in the center and marinated in a flavorful garlic sauce. This appetizer could have easily been shared by three people. We also ordered the “Shanghai spring rolls”. These were two crispy rolls stuffed to capacity with a selection of vegetables and just enough cracked pepper to bring a tingle to our tongues. They were deep-fried, but not too greasy.

For our entree, we tried the “seasoned vegetables”. Though the dish sounded simple enough, we were enticed by the fact that the chef gets to choose the vegetables on the fly. Our plate was heaped with mushrooms, carrots, baby corn, broccoli, water chestnuts, pea pods, and more. The light sauce that accompanied the vegetables was a nice compliment to freshness of the vegetables. The veggies themselves had just enough crunch to satisfy our picky, vegetarian palates.

Dragonfly Mandarin does not skimp on portions. We recommend ordering an entree or two and sharing. Not only did we have no room for desert, but we also made our way home with plenty of leftovers. Our food was fresh and filling, just the way vegetables should be.

Dragonfly Mandarin is located at 832 West Randolph Street.