Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Duke Bistro - duke it out

It's the new year and I, for one, am looking forward to new experiences, a bit more travel and perhaps a little more direction this year. And while last year was definitely a fun one for dining out, I'm a little cautious about this year - I mean, how many more new restaurants can Sydney sustain?

One that definitely seems to have some staying power is Duke Bistro; one of the original Sydney 'dude food' revolutionists, though I think the label underrates the skills of kitchen significantly.

Dirty Smoker and The Tsarina (back) at Duke Bistro, Flinders Street, Darlinghurst
We began the evening with cocktails and all I remember from my smoked olive cocktail, Dirty Smoker, is a strong, savoury smokiness with the hit of a clear spirit. It was more novelty and experimentation than taste, I think, especially the smoked black olives on the side.

Much easier to down was The Tsarina; a girly mix of raspberry vodka and citrus flavours, served in the same coupe glass.

Radish, dashi butter
While cocktails are always fun, it was the food at Duke Bistro that had me excited. Having heard nothing but good words and appreciative noises about the radish with dashi butter dish, this was the first cab off the rank, served with bread rolls.

What could be so interesting about some plain old radishes cooked in a flavoured butter, you wonder?

Radish, dashi butter, bread rolls
Oh, but for the all-round smack of umami savouriness from the dashi butter; salty and sweet but not at all fishy - you really could have thrown any vegetable into this butter and it would be sensational, but the tender radishes shined.

Serving the dish with bread rolls makes complete sense as when I finished my perfectly round bread roll, I contemplated getting a straw to slurp up the rest of the butter sauce - it is that good.

Grilled scampi
Never one to go past scampi on a menu, the arrival of one scampi, split in half, was a little surprising and pricey we then realised. The split scampi, grilled beneath some unmemorable creamy sauce, was but a bite or two and definitely left us wanting more.

Bonito, lardo, pumpkin, coffee
Of the more substantially sized meals, the pan fried bonito dish was presented stunningly over a drool of pumpkin puree. The coffee flavoured crumbs went well with the sweet flavours of the dish while the lardo was difficult to find.

My favourite aspect of the dish wasn't the finely cooked, golden hued fish but the accompanying balls of pumpkin and macadamia nuts; of which you could barely differentiate until you had it in your mouth.

Char siu pork neck, gai lan, garlic shoot
The other 'main' dish was a more generous serve of Chinese char siu style pork neck; a little pink and incredibly tender. These hunks of sweet surfaced pork were served with a green puree and some green stems; one of which must have been gai lan and the other of garlic shoots.

MakMak macarons
These small plates were surprisingly filling for two girls, though I wonder how the hearty male appetites fare here. So full were we that we had just one proper dessert and a selection of mini MakMak macarons between the two of us, including a fine strawberry flavoured one.

Milk, Milk, Milk
I was initially intrigued by this dessert name and even more so when it was described as a dessert of various milk components. There was the pool of dulce de leche caramel sauce framing browned milk meringues and a fabulous milk panna cotta that seemed sugar-free (and for this skim milk drinker, it tasted more like pure milk than I ever remember).

I suppose the chocolate crumbs added some necessary colour contrast but the Milk, Milk, Milk was just my kind of dessert: a simple yet fun concept, full of different textures.

There's a lot of competition in restaurant town, especially if 2011 was anything to go by. With its winning interiors (there really is a boar's head sitting on a bar stool at the bar), clever menu and hipster crowd; I'm positive that Duke Bistro isn't just a dude fad.

Duke Bistro on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Interesting smoked cocktail & dashi butter. I find the presentation a bit inconsistent, but food sounds good in general.

hollypop said...

they servings aren't substantial enough for boys. which is weird for the whole 'dude food' thing.
after 3 trips to duke i'm really off it for lack of service and value.
they must be occasionally getting it right though because i hear raves from lots of people :-/

joey@forkingaroundsydney said...

I agree with you re the proliferation of Sydney eateries, and 2012 looks to be more of the same. Good and bad in many ways, but Duke has been on my list for some time now. Hoping to make it soon!

Mel said...

Wow that dulce de leche caramel sauce looks Ah-mazing! I've wanted to try Duke for awhile but I guess as it's so far from home it slips to the bottom of the list. One day I'll try the Dirty day.

Dee @ foodinhand said...

I really love how they keep mixing it up and doing heaps of new stuff all the time.

I went last time for the Tuesday dinner and it was so worth it! That bonito and milk milk milk looks amazing but I think the milk dessert at Bentley still holds number 1 position in my heart <3

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I really liked the pancake party-that was worth a trip in itself!

chocolatesuze said...

woooahhh that dessert sounds insanely delish!

Flick Your Food said...

That Milk, Milk Milk dish sound delicious, pity there isnt much they can do about the presentation!
I hope Sydney can sustain all the new restaurants, but in my opinion, It seems people go out to dinner more than what they use to, and have appriciation of fine food, so hopefully the restaurants can stay afloat.

john@heneedsfood said...

Holy crap the pork neck looks seriously delicious. I'm intrigued by the Dirty Smoker drink!

Tina said...

Hi lateraleating - This style of food certainly is interesting and definitely not consistent. I think they thrive on the shock factor.

Hi hollypop - Indeed, there's nothing dude-ish about the serving sizes :)

Hi joey - It's very interesting stuff they're doing, and for that I think they have sustainability.

Hi MissPiggy - I don't smoke but felt a little naughty having that cocktail... :)

Hi Dee - Yep, change is good!

Hi Lorraine - I wasn't too sure about that when looking at the menu, but have heard so many good things about the pancakes now...

Hi suze - It definitely was! Highlight of my night :D

Hi Flick Your Food - I actually like the dessert presentation...!

Hi John - The Dirty Smoker is one I think you have out of curiosity, but definitely not one you drink all night... :)

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

Thank goodness the dessert tastes good because, although I like the presentation of textures, the colours really aren't much to look at!

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

I am really loving those radishes. Seems a simple but very satisfying dish. Thank goodness for the bread rolls!

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Hi Rita - Yes, a presentation in neutrals, perhaps? :D

Hi Sara - The dashi butter is the real star of that show!


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