Monday, January 17, 2011

Dragonfly Bistro




Dragonfly Bistro — Simple, Stylish and Sophisticated

“Bistro,” a restaurant category that harkens back to the late 19th century in France and the early 20th century in England, is flexible in its connotations, but always refers to an establishment where one can have a meal as well as drinks. True bistros are generally small, and their menus are characteristically comprised of straightforward selections, often rustic in nature but not pricey. The Dragonfly Bistro is one such place.

For me, the name Dragonfly conjures up images of beauty and exotica. The adult dragonfly can thrust itself in six directions: downward, upward, forward, backward, and side to side, so the choice of the name Dragonfly for the restaurant intrigued me.

The story of why Dragonfly was chosen as the restaurant’s name was told to me by Nora Yuriaan, co-owner and spouse of the chef. It is a deeply personal story of homage and loss and one that resonated deeply with me, reminding me that life can be painful and tragic, but that the resilience of the human spirit can overcome life’s worst heartbreaks.

Before I interviewed Donald and Nora Yuriaan for this story, I had an impromptu and delicious lunch at the restaurant, which rivalled those offered at some of the best lunch spots in the city. Nora and I had never met, and the service Nora provided was attentive, personal and efficient. (Nora works lunch shifts and spends the evenings with their three children.)

Even though the restaurant has large and attractive windows facing the street, in some respects it remains hidden in plain sight at the north end of Richmond Row, housed in the premises once occupied by the Village Café. Seated by the window, I have on several occasions watched many inquisitive passers-by stop to peruse the menu posted in the window and then resume walking. I want to advise them to step inside to the intimate 24-seat dining room, which is now in its fourth year of operation.

When you first walk into the restaurant, you are immediately greeted, your coat is taken, and you are properly seated. There is a disposition of giving and taking pride and pleasure in giving hospitality and providing warm service.

Smaller restaurants seem to impart an intimacy, conviviality and hospitality that can never be duplicated in larger spaces. Compact premises might bear more scrutiny, but the type of familiarity they afford often breeds mutual respect and appreciation for both the kitchen and patrons. This has been evident on the several visits I have made to the Dragonfly. There are starched white linen tablecloths and napkins here, as well as impeccably set tables with quality cutlery and polished stemware that add panache to the surroundings.

The kitchen is compact but ordered. Chef Yuriaan produces fresh, healthful and classic dishes that can be executed with ease and simplicity. Chef emphasizes that the menus are designed to accommodate seasonal ingredients and locally procured foods. Despite a commitment to sourcing locally, no one is going to lecture you about the provenance of the ingredients on the menu. However, you can be well assured that Chef respects his craft and the provenance of the products that he uses.

The culinary legacy of West Java, in Indonesia, might seem like an audacious muse for this intimate and stylish restaurant. However, Chef Yuriaan is Indonesian by birth and was previously employed at the Grand Hotel Preanger in Bandung, the capital of West Java, after graduating from Hotel Management. For several years, Chef Yuriaan was employed by both Holland America and Norwegian cruise lines.

On the menu, there is plenty of spice for those who seek heat. Mere heat, however, is not all that most of Dragonfly Bistro’s clients desire. We were enthused by the sambal-like hot and spicy chili sauce that bathed the Indonesian- inspired Ayam Balado (chicken breast served with a spicy red chili, tomato and spice sauce with shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, lemon grass, palm sugar, lime leaves and candle nuts) on the current dinner menu. Other entrees on the dinner menu include locally farmed Pheasant, Grilled Halibut, Steak Diane and Roasted Rack of Lamb. On three occasions, we were impressed with Chefs’ velvety Cream of Jerusalem Artichoke Soup.
On Monday nights, Chef proffers an ever-changing prix fixe menu that is perfect for anyone looking for a rich and varied range of Indonesian favours. Sour notes of galingal, lemon grass, tamarind and lime leaves offer more subtlety and range to the cooking. Not since Mies Bervoest stopped serving a skilled repertoire of Indonesian -inspired dishes in a rijsttafel at the former Miestro restaurant several years back, have we had access to these flavour mixtures.

Aware of the challenges of spouses working together, Nora told me that she and Donald share a mutual respect both at home and at work. The Yuriaans have been married for fourteen years, after meeting in Majorca. They now reside in St. Thomas with their children, so they both commute to and from work daily. The Yuriaans do not open on Sundays because this has been sanctioned as a family day.

The Dragonfly Bistro has a commendable kitchen, a moderately priced menu, and service that is amiable, professional and hospitable. If you are planning to visit for Indonesian Food on Monday nights, be sure to make a reservation.

715 Richmond Street, London, ON N6A 3H1
519.432.2191
Email: dragonfly bistro@bellnet.ca

Bryan Lavery is a well-known chef, business consultant, food writer and former restaurateur with many years in consulting and advisory roles with various companies.