I‘d been hearing a lot of good things recently about Dragon-i, the unique Scottish/Malaysian/Cantonese restaurant situated on Hope Street, Glasgow- and, having now visited I can understand why.
This is quite likely the only Cantonese fusion establishment in Glasgow, so it has to be good given its standalone position in this industry. And I’m happy to confirm that this is indeed the case.
Firstly be aware that there is no parking at this restaurant, although a multi-story is located at Cambridge Street, a mere 5 minute walk away, with parking after 6pm charged at a flat rate of £2.50.
Our table was booked for 7.30pm and despite arriving slightly early at 7pm, we were met with a level of courtesy rarely seen. The place was mobbed with groups who were obviously out for a Christmas party night and it was buzzing. Our table wasn’t quite ready so we were shown to a waiting area while the staff took charge. We had literally only sat down, I hadn’t even had time to check in on the ubiquitous Facebook before another member of staff arrived to escort us to our table.
What I will point out at this juncture is how friendly, helpful and professional the staff are, always smiling, asking if you needed anything, apologising that the table wasn’t ready – despite the fact we were early! It was very rewarding to see the front of house staff working so well as a cohesive team, where everybody seemed to know exactly who should be doing what and when.
Dragon-i is disabled friendly, with level access from the street and plenty of room to manoeuvre inside in a wheelchair, and as the place is open plan dining there is ample room around the tables. On the evening of our visit there was less space, however, management did advise that some extra tables had been added to the floorplan to cope with festive demands. The establishment also has a dedicated disabled toilet.
Set up around 13 years ago by current chef/patron Stephen Man along with his brother, Stephen returned in April this year to once again take on the running of the restaurant. The award-winning chef prides himself on the Asian fusion menu (his words) and I’ll gladly lay a bet now that there won’t be another restaurant of this style in the west offering Stornoway Black Pudding on the menu! When you visit Dragon-i throw away your pre-conceived ideas of Cantonese food and don’t expect a 14-page menu.
The kitchen brigade are obviously very accomplished at what they do, pumping out plate after plate of cracking quality food. Supporting local suppliers for meat, fish and vegetable is key to their success according to Stephen, as is the continual tweaking of the menu to tempt the palates of the great Glasgow consumer. I wish him luck with that one – I suspect sweet and sour chicken will always be a staple in the diet of many Glaswegians.
So to the menu, we go. Starters were Satay strips – Turmeric coated chicken in a light smooth sate sauce. The chicken had been flattened and was just on the point of being dry had it been cooked any longer. As it was we got away with it and all was well with the sauce lending a nice bite to the dish. The CO chose Che Ci Gai, fresh mango and mozzarella wrapped in chicken breast slices topped with mango sauce. She was more than happy with this dish, which she said blended well together. The sweetness of the mango and the creaminess of the mozzarella were perfect and the chicken slices were very tender and cooked perfectly.
Next up was Hong Sow App – aromatic sliced duck with pancakes, leeks, cucumber and hoisin sauce. A steamer full of pancakes arrived at the table which was great. All too often I find myself having to ask for more – not this time! The meat was cooked well but was sadly lacking that essential component, the crispy duck skin. Now I know it’s not exactly politically correct in this day of healthy eating, but do I care. Not a jot. For this dish to work properly it needs that crispy goodness to balance out the richness of the meat along with the freshness of the vegetables and the saltiness of the sauce. A lovely touch was the provision of finger bowls and toothpicks and is simply further proof, if it were ever needed, as to the thought which goes into providing the very highest level of customer service.
Mains were duly delivered after a check was made if we needed a break first which was a nice touch. I chose a sweet and sour Har – light crispy batter coated tiger prawns served with a garlic butter fried rice. Now, this was spot on. Eight to ten large prawns arrived coated in a deliciously sweet sauce with a subtle salty aftertaste, and which had a nod to the Caribbean with a hint of rum and coconut. The peppers, onions and carrots still had a crunch to them and weren’t drowned in the sauce. The rice, fried in a garlic butter, was light, fluffy and oh so tasty.
My other half opted for the duck in a plum sauce. Not just any old duck this dish, succulent, tender and expertly cooked. And there was plenty of it too – it was one big breast! The sauce was again the perfect compliment, an infusion of lemongrass, chilli, and ginger blended together in a light plum dressing. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this was the dish of the night and deserves an award of its own.
I know I’ve touched on it before but the staff here are excellent and it’s a pity not more service establishments could offer such a superlative service.
So after a short break and refreshed glasses, the sweet menu was provided. I opted for the lychee Crème brûlée – I’m a sucker for a good brûlée and boy this one just elevated that dessert to a whole new level. A perfectly grilled and slightly burnt crisp sugar topping under which nestled a sweet creamy custard, perfectly cold and was a perfect foil to the warm crispy topping. And to top it all strawberries and lychees were served on the side.
On the other side of the table sat a crispy light and sweet batter filled chock full of pineapple pieces and apple chunks, themselves giving a sweet and sour filling. The batter was a light golden brown and with not a hint of oiliness, over the top of which was drizzled a strawberry purée. On the side sat a good dollop of vanilla ice cream, perfectly creamy and very moreish.
At the time of our visit the restaurant was noisy, but do bear in mind that this was the festive season and there were parties dining. In any other circumstances, this is very unlikely to be a problem.
In conclusion, therefore, if you’re looking for something that wee bit different, perhaps a special occasion, or, you want to try some of the best in Asian fusion food, don’t bother looking any further than Dragon-i, you’d simply be wasting your time!