Ok, I’ll admit it right up front: Dan Lansberg, the executive chef of Dragonfly in the Hotel ZaZa, is a great guy. Talented chef, charitable, creative, personable, caring, kind. His food and his cooking reflect all that. So I wasn’t the least bit surprised that Lansberg’s new fall menu is full of vibrant, hearty dishes that make you happy, even if the one-sheet list is, by Landsberg’s own admission, a bit porcine heavy.
He complements a hefty shank of pork osso buco with pancetta-braised collard greens and a pool of grits enriched with just the essence of butternut squash. To prove that even the most humble ingredients can be sublime, Landsberg roasts then purees the squash, passes it through a fine-mesh sieve, and, finally, employs only the the remaining drops of golden liquid as the base for the grits.
The small dining room has the feel of a campy parlor — plush, quirky, lit with those Edison bulbs that make everyone look like a flapper. Landsberg borrows from NYC’ chef David Chang (Momofuku) for a dish with chewy housemade ramen noodles (Landsberg adds diver scallops and a bacon-dashi broth) and goes back to Chang again for starter of salty, sweet pork belly, cooked first in a hot oven to crisp the pork then in a lower oven to render out much of the fat. Landsberg’s touch: a spoonful of parsnip puree and a drizzle of Spanish chorizo oil.
The portions are just right, which means you’ll have plenty of room to savor any number of wines from an excellent collection curated by Alex Aland, Hotel ZaZa’s equally talented and affable food and beverage director. If Aland is working the floor– and it’s worth the effort to make sure he is — take a cue from any good sushi restaurant and go omakase (“I’m in your hands”). The guy will throw down some amazing bottles, even if you just want to try a glass or three.
Landsberg’s new menu is good, but Aland’s wine service is even better. Valet your car, get a room upstairs, and sleep late. Dragonfly is worth it.