A few months back, a new restaurant opened ridiculously close to my house. It took the place of one of the ‘hood’s many Chinese restaurants. Called Dragonfly, the place categorizes itself as “contemporary Vietnamese cuisine.” I like to think that I have a pretty good record of eating my way around the globe (all without having left the US, or this City, or even the Inner Sunset), but my knowledge of Vietnamese food was limited to Pho – which is quite possible the world’s greatest comfort food.
After procrastinating way too long, we were finally lured in by a sidewalk board advertising a 5-7pm Early Bird Special of free golden shrimp and special wine.
From the street, the restaurant is an especially lovely neighborhood nook – one that turns out to be more cavern than nook as it extends back away from its street front picture windows. We sat in this front room – decorated like an Ikea display room on sedatives. It’s soothing, pretty, and quite classy for a local joint.
The food, however, surpassed even my high decor-based expectations. Though I have limited Vietnamese experience, this food was, objectively and compared to nothing else, just plain tasty. Luciously fragrant rice presented in compact banana leaf sculptures that are then lazily released on your plant, sending intoxicating scents of ginger or coconut straight to your inner-most tastebud. Beautifully displayed main dishes were equally flavorful without overpowering or stuffing you to the gills. The golden strimp starter was light and crispy.
The service in the still-new Dragonfly is also worth checking out. We had possibly the most enthusiastic waiter I’ve ever met. He was eager and pleased to offer suggestions, unlock the mysterious banana leaf rice packets, and was patient and kind to us newbie Vietnamese food tasters.
We were too full to try the desserts wich sounded fantastic – especially the chocolate fondue (dip stuff! in chocolate! what’s better!), but I assure you, we’ll be hitting Dragonfly again. Soon.
Dragonfly: 420 Judah Street, San Francisco, 94122, 415-661-7755; serving lunch and dinner; dinner from $6-$20; wine and beer; ridiculously easy N-Judah access, exit at 9th Ave and Judah; go eat now – the really boring picture proves we were too busy chowing to remember to photograph the room or the food – both of which were stunning.