Friday, September 18, 2015

Dragonfly Fish Market & Kitchen (Doral): Hiro's Story

ai3's team is in the trenches, battling through construction administration on the Dragonfly restaurant in Doral (close to Miami). If you went to U of F, then you may have had a special date night in the original Dragonfly in Gainesville, Florida. While we wait for the dream to take shape, Jillian Rooker and Kellen Minor wanted to introduce you to one of our most creative clients, Hiro, as he builds his empire.  Don't worry, we are doing everything we can to get a Dragonfly Atlanta!

Our chat with Hiro Leung
What is the story behind Dragonfly?
We graduated from the University of Florida some time ago (no time... uu hmmmm) with a P.H.D. - Poor, Hungry and Determined- (not the real Ph D., but the hard knock one). Our venture began with the opening of a small sushi joint with not more than ten tables in 1999. My business partner (Song Kim) and I decided to do this until we found "real jobs" like our friends who were going into the corporate world. As the years passed, we absolutely fell in love with what we do.

What were you going to do with your life?
Growing up, I knew I wanted to be in business. I also knew that I never wanted to have a job. I couldn't stand the thought of going to work and doing something, for the rest of my life, that wasn't fun. I was determined to create a life that would allow my passions of creativity, eating, and drinking to intersect. Yes, we have tough days, but to be able to express that on a blank canvas when we open a new restaurant is amazing- and to watching it grow is an absolutely awesome feeling!

Why did you name it Dragonfly?
Sixteen years ago, when we were in search of a name, we wanted a name that represented Asia and symbolized grace, beauty, and enlightenment. We knew the answer was in nature, and the dragonfly spoke to us. The dragonfly is a symbol that represents the grace and beauty of Asia, but for us it goes even further. With eyes that are much larger than its body, the dragonfly reminds us to keep our vision huge but our bodies nimble.
What is it about an authentic fish market that inspired you to include this retail component in Dragonfly Doral?
Japanese culture is all about creating true meaningful connections. When you look at the restaurant landscape in the U.S., it's all the same. We want to be seen as the misfits; the ones that people ask, "Why?" We are driven to push the boundaries of Japanese cuisine beyond Sushi. When we landed on the Doral location, we knew that Seafood was a huge part of the Hispanic culture there, and using the Tsukiji Fish Market as inspiration was a no brainer!

Amongst your travels internationally and nationally, what is your favorite Japanese restaurant?
I have two favorites. One is a hole in the wall in Okinawa Japan. My grandparents used to take me there when I was a child, but it's not there anymore (the owners have passed away). The food was great, but the time spent with my grandparents going to that restaurant was one of my most fulfilling memories.
The second is Kyoto Japan (I know I'm cheating, but the whole area deserves to be mentioned!). The service, food culture and humility found in many of the restaurants there is simply breathtaking. I think there are more Michelin star restaurants in Kyoto than in Paris.

Is there a place in Japan that you find truly inspiring? If so, what is it and why?
Again, I'm blown away by the attention to detail, service, and food that exists in Kyoto. It inspires everything we do.

Hands down, what is going to be the BEST item on the menu at Dragonfly Fish Market & Kitchen (Doral) that everyone must order?
haha... It's going to be a completely new menu and design. We'll feature fresh seafood prepared with the love and inspiration of traditional Japanese comfort food. From our grab-and-go hot and cold dishes to the Dragonfly Izakaya experience, everything will be unique. 
If you're reading this... you'll have to come and see!

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