This week I already had a half written column about another place when a group of girlfriends invited me to Duke with a promise that I will love it and a supplication that I should write about it. They were surprised that I have not already been there, as it is a popular spot in the heart of trendy Santa Catalina neighbourhood.
Taking in the décor and the atmosphere on arrival, I was surprised too that I have not come across this gem before. There is a mixture of high and low tables, all very close to each other, but somehow feeling cosy and friendly, rather than intrusive. We came in a group of four and we kind of shared a long table with two cool looking German couples, yet each group had plenty of their own space. I also just have to comment on the chairs at Duke. I have been to many restaurants over the years, but these at Duke are definitely up there with the most comfortable ones I have ever sat in.
The food here is a mix of different influences. The menu is short, but everything on it sounds absolutely delicious. I spied a colourful salad in front of the German girl next to us. My friend told me that it was Duke’s Thai Green Mango Salad, one of her favourite dishes. So, we both went for that. The other two friends ordered a Thai Green Coconut Curry and Indian Tikka Masala Curry and I was looking forward to stealing a bite or two from their plates too.
While we were waiting for our main plates, we were treated to a very interesting snack “on the house”. It was a bowl of a black olive dip served with black olive tortilla chips. I am funny with olives. I use olive oil, but would not bite into an actual fruit, as I decided years ago that I don’t like their texture. In the name of research, I decided to try this chip and dip combo, and I was pleasantly surprised. I liked it a lot! The dip was creamy, heavy and full of flavour, while the chips were crispy, crunchy and all together really nice.
Feeling hungry, I opted for the big (rather than small) Thai Green Salad. It was a beautiful presentation of colours and textures, and I was so excited to tuck in. I loved the contrast of the sweet shredded crispy duck and tart green mango. Raw carrots and broccoli added to the freshness of the salad and ignited the feeling that I was eating something that was very good for my body. The salad was perfectly flavoured with crushed peanuts, cilantro and what I think (but did not ask to confirm!) was a fish sauce. The salad was not just “big”, it was huge, but chatting with friends I hardly noticed making my way through every last shred of it. It was super delicious, very satisfying, yet it felt light on the stomach.
Somewhere in between the mouthfuls of this fresh deliciousness, I have also managed to try my friends’ curries. They were obviously heavier than my salad, but both were very tasty and I would definitely try either of them next time. And I am sure that there will be plenty of “next times” at Duke! I loved the salad, the service was great, and the atmosphere was brilliant! Walking out, I was as surprised as my friends that I have not been to this place till now…
My only regret – having had to catch the last bus to my apartment out of town – was that I had no time for dessert. If you follow my columns regularly, you know how much I love my desserts, so having no time for one was a real torture. Soon to be rectified, I hope!
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