When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).
With sequined purple body parts — legs and busts, specifically — hanging from the ceiling, disco ball plant pots, and Olympian heroes decorating the walls, it’s definitely a party as soon as you walk in the doors of Disco Dragon. The new, sparkly bar and restaurant opened on May 19 in downtown Phoenix.
Brenon Stuart, who co-owns the concept with Sam Olguin, explains the name, admitting that it was originally “Disco Dragon Pasta Party” several iterations ago.
“I don't know how to dissect it necessarily as a coherent thought. It was just like a silly combination of things."
Executive Chef Kevin Rosales chimed in, “it’s like the emo punk bands. It's like, Playboy Manbaby," he says.
Wherever Disco Dragon comes from, it has our attention.
Their answer? Asian food. Fast forward and now the menu at Disco Dragon, created by Rosales and chef Bob Tam, draws from pan-Asian influences.
“We're using a lot of [Tam's] Chinese influence, and then my Filipino influence, with a lot of nostalgia. The menu items are Thai, a little bit of Korean, but mostly Filipino, and lots of Chinese. But coming up with a twist,” Rosales says.
What kind of twist? Two words – pizza lumpia.
Imagine traditional Filipino Shanghai egg rolls, yet instead of being stuffed with pork, these are stuffed with melted cheese and served with a dollop of marinara. One bite provides a sweet reminiscence of childhood while also satisfying adult taste buds.
While many items on the menu were inspired by the question, "Wouldn't it be fun if...?" Stuart says, they also fit Rosales' requirement for authenticity.
“Authenticity is about being intentional. I wouldn't compromise flavors, there better be salt or acids and a good amount of fat in there. But I think it's just knowing what I know best, and how I can share that. And as it goes, it is 100% down to anything wrapped in a spring roll," he says, laughing.
Other items such as the tempura fried oyster mushrooms will give you takoyaki throwback vibes, and the pan-seared pork wontons with Hot Pot sauce is a modern take on tradition. These dishes are best enjoyed with a group.
As Rosales describes the menu, “It’s kind of like, ‘palutan,’" he says, defining the Filipino term as "food to have with alcohol."
The 12 Cocktails on the menu each have an Asian spirit base from soju to sake, and include florals, citruses, and plum ingredients. For purple overload, try the Ube Milk Punch, a silky clarified cocktail, paired with a sweet ube donut filled with ube cream.
“Almost selfishly, we wanted to make a place that we wanted to hang out,” Stuart says. Drawing inspiration from the night markets of Los Angeles, the team wanted to create a space where customers come not only for the food and drinks, but ultimately to have a good time.
“What I think is cool about Phoenix, specifically Roosevelt Row, is this is where a lot of things are happening. There’s movement. There are so many players down here, and they're all doing different stuff,” Stuart says.
“We've got tacos next door, we've got barbecue next door, we've got wings there, we've got three breweries that all do very different styles of beer — these are all very different inspirations. And here’s where things happen. Hopefully, people who follow us will try the food next door, or try the beers across the street, and want to come downtown more often. Here’s where big city shit happens.”
When that involves ube cocktails and pizza lumpia, we’re here for it.
Disco Dragon509 East Roosevelt Street
Thursday - Saturday 6 p.m. - 2 a.m.