Dragonfly NYC Brings Asian Food to the Upper East Side

Storefront of Upper East Side's Dragonfly Asian restaurant.

At first glance, Dragonfly New York Asia, which opened about a month ago in the old Arriba Arriba spot right near The Marlowe on the Upper East Side, looks like a million other places in the neighborhood, some of which are fine, a few of which are quite good, many of which are just plain awful. But while Dragonfly NYC may not seem like anything special from the outside – the only real distinguishing design feature is the meat-cleaver door handle – this Upper East Side Asian restaurant is worth checking out a time or two because of what, or should we say, because of WHO, is back there in the kitchen. Namely: Bronx-born Chef Cornelius Gallagher. 

Silky Lettuce Wraps with chicken at Dragonfly Asian Restaurant in NYC.

Dragonfly's Chef Cornelius Gallagher has a resume to be reckoned with. As Executive Chef of Midtown's Oceana, Gallagher earned a rare three-star review from the New York Times, in addition to being named the city's Best New Chef of 2003 by that paper. And prior to running the Oceana kitchen, Gallagher was Sous Chef at Daniel, and has studied under such giants as Gray Kunz (at Lespinasse), David Bouley (at Bouley), Laurent Gras (at Peacock Alley), and Ferran Adría (at El Bulli). So, at a very minimum, we were intrigued by Dragonfly, to see what Gallagher would do with his recent obsession with Asian street food, particularly of the Thai variety. A quick visit to Dragonfly last Saturday evening confirmed that this is no ordinary Asian restaurant in NYC (and it better not be, at these prices!), that there is skill and creativity to burn in the kitchen but, given Gallagher's pedigree, it could definitely be better.   

Dragonfly's Thai Beef Cheeks by Chef Cornelius Gallagher.

Dragonfly New York is a Asian Restaurant NYC Has Been Craving 

For example, our starter, Silky Lettuce Wraps, a generous five-pack of buttery leaves topped with chunks of hoisin-glazed chicken, peanuts, lime, and mint leaves, was all nicely balanced and prettily plated… except the bird concoction was still refrigerator-cold and, so, the whole thing largely flavorless. Thank goodness for that yellow spicy mayo! Dragonfly's Thai Beef Cheeks, a Asian food menu-proclaimed "signature dish", was more successful, the meat appropriately rich and tender, served on a creamy pile of polenta with spicy tomato sauce and, as a nice textural counterpoint, crunchy crouton-y bits. Not sure it needed that hit of cinnamon, but the dish was large and satisfying. If you want some popular Asian food in a treet food option that'll truly blow you away, we firmly suggest traveling to the new Pok Pok Ny, in Brooklyn (now THAT was a memorable meal!); if you want a neighborhood spot at which you can maybe try something new, Dragonfly delivers. 

Seating and bar inside Dragonfly restaurant in Manhattan's UES.

For Asian Food NYC is Asking For, Check out Dragonfly NYC

Dragonfly is located on Third Avenue between 82nd and 83rd Streets. For more information and a look at the (still-evolving) Dragonfly menu, please see the restaurant's website, here.

Dragonfly on Urbanspoon

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