Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Desi Dragon

After reading a couple of reviews for Desi Dragon, I was keen to give it a try. Desi Chinese is a term given to Chinese food cooked in India, adapted to Indian tastes. It's thought to have first originated from the large Chinese population in Kolkata. Desi Chinese uses spices such as cumin, coriander seeds and turmeric, together with ginger, chilli, garlic and yoghurt, to give the food a whole new range of flavours.

Anyway it all sounded very interesting to me, so we headed off to Bardon. Desi Dragon occupies a great location on MacGregor Terrace, which has fantastic views out over the suburbs. This spot has been the home of numerous restaurants over the years, but hopefully Desi Dragon will stick around.

The room itself looks great. There are a few decorations around the walls and a couple of cool light fittings, but the most impressive things were the quality tables and chairs. No cheap, crappy tables here - lovely, extremely comfortable high-backed leather chairs and solid tables means the interior of Desi Dragon is streets ahead of most suburban restaurants.

We wandered in with our 6 week old daughter in her little baby capsule. The waiter was about to take us to a table in the main part of the restaurant when the manager spotted our little bub and ushered us over to a quieter, more secluded part of the restaurant - great start to the night.

Anyway, on to the food. Entrees include paneer & pea wontons (crispy wontons filled with cottage cheese, crushed peas, ginger & coriander - $7), salt & pepper prawns (fried prawns dusted with Szechuan pepper & salt) and the creatively named lamboo tikki (lamb & bamboo rissole with secret aromatics - $10).

There were only two gluten free options in the entrees, neither of which really took my fancy (one was Szechuan potato fries - not particularly Chinese or Indian sounding) so I opted for a soup instead. The soups on the menu are sweet corn, hot & sour or Manchow (light soya soup with diced vegetables & egg). Each of the soups can be prepared with vegetables ($8) or chicken ($9).

I took a stab and ordered the hot & sour soup with chicken. I found the first few mouthfuls a bit heavy going, because it was made in a much richer style than one usually finds in a Chinese or Asian restaurant. Anyway, my tastebuds adjusted, and I really enjoyed it. It was a powerful, rich soup, with plenty of chicken, egg, mushroom & tofu. I'd ordered a glass of sauvignon blanc and it turned out to be a really good match - the acidity and zing of the young sauvignon blanc really cut through the big, heavy flavours of the soup.

My wife ordered the mixed vegetable spring rolls ($7). These were two enormous rolls, reminiscent of a couple of very serious Cuban cigars. They had been sliced in half on the diagonal, which made for good presentation. The julienned vegetable filling had obviously been freshly prepared, and wasn't overpowered by the delicate Indian spicing. The pastry was crispy, which meant overall these were excellent spring rolls. Good value too, given their size.

The menu is split into three when it comes to main courses. There are four "Desi Dragon Exclusives", which are chilli chicken ($25), goat shank Szechuan style ($25), chicken Manchurian (chicken dumplings tossed in soya garlic shallot sauce - $25) and vegetable Manchuran (vegetable croquettes tossed in soya garlic shallot sauce - $21).

The second part of the main course selections is a make your own affair. First you pick between chicken, beef, lamb, barramundi, king prawns, vegetables, paneer or tofu and then select one of the sauces. The sauces on offer are Szechuan, satay, chilli garlic, sweet & sour, Hunan black bean and ginger & lemongrass. These range between $18 and $23, depending on your choice of ingredients.

Finally, there are a few rice and noodle dishes, which didn't really appeal to me, given how interesting the rest of the menu was. After all I was here to try something new. The rice & noodle dishes are $11-$13, or extra if you add chicken, prawns or beef to them. It's worth noting that all of the main courses (other than the noodles) are gluten free, which was great for me.

As much as I liked the sound of barramundi with ginger & lemongrass, I thought that ordering one of the specialties would be the best way to get a handle on desi Chinese flavours. So it was the Szechuan goat shanks for me. This came out as a huge bowl, with two pretty large shanks, vegetables and plenty of thick sauce - it looked excellent. There were slices of fresh chilli and fresh coriander mixed through the dish. The goat shanks were extremely tender, and easily broke off the bone. The sauce again had a fairly rich flavour, although the fresh chilli and coriander helped add a good, lighter contrast. The goat didn't have the strong flavour which I was expecting (and really like) - which I assume was the result of slow cooking. I really enjoyed this dish, but be warned it's a very generous serving. Although I ate all the goat, I didn't manage to clean up the sauce and vegetables.

We also ordered the vegetarian Manchurian. Although I didn't try the croquettes, I did get a taste of the sauce, which was a lighter, more fragrant sauce than accompanied the goat. I'm told that the croquettes were very tasty, full of vegetables and had the lightness of a fritter - they weren't heavy or doughy.

There's a small wine list, which doesn't have a lot of options by the glass. I had a couple of glasses of sauvignon blanc, which were very reasonably priced at $5.50 a glass. The first pour was a bit stingy, but the second one was fine. Unless you're only going to have a glass, it's probably a good idea to bring your own wine ($2 per person for corkage). There is a bottle shop in the same complex as Desi Dragon, which is very handy.

Service was very friendly throughout the meal. The restaurant wasn't particularly busy, but there were no long waits between courses. After our entree, a waitress came and asked when we would like the main course, which I always appreciate. Our drinks came out snappily, and all of the staff were very welcoming.

As far as I'm concerned, Desi Dragon is a welcome newcomer to the Brisbane restaurant scene. I think it's terrific to see new restaurants opening based on a specific cuisine. Sure, I haven't been to a real Chinese restaurant in India, so I can't say how authentic the food is, but I've certainly not had anything like this before. Desi Dragon is a bit pricier than your average suburban Chinese or Indian restaurant, but the surroundings are of a high quality, and servings are very generous - so the slightly higher prices are more than justified.

Desi Dragon has a few good deals on at the moment. On Tuesday nights if you buy one main meal, you get one free. And there's also a two course lunch offer with a glass of house wine or light beer for $12.50, which sounds like great value to me.

What does all this mean? Tasty Chinese food with subtle Indian spices and flavourings, big serves and lovely surroundings.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Great
Ambience - High backed leather chairs and a lovely view over Bardon
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Tiny list or BYO
Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - Great

Desi Dragon
1/60 MacGregor Terrace
Bardon 4065
P - 07 3369 9558
W -

Desi Dragon on Urbanspoon


Sarah said...

Wow that really does sound like something different. Thanks for the review :)

food bling, Brisbane said...

Thanks Sarah - I'm always glad to see new cuisines popping up in Brisbane. sorry the photos on this one are so crappy

The Team said...

Been there big bird. Nice review too.

The chairs are a nice touch (as is the view), glad you mentioned them.

mui said...

I really liked the chinese food when I visited goa last year (I got a bit sick of curry after 2 curry meals a day for 2 weeks!), this place looks great, I'll have to give it a shot.

food bling, Brisbane said...

yes Mick the chairs were worth a special comment. If only more restaurants around the place actually had comfy chairs...

Anonymous said...

I visited this place in feb this year. food was awful. nothing compared to the indian chinese you get back in india. their cooks have taken things for granted. brisbane needs a good indian chinese restaurant. i will not recommend this to anyone.