Duo Japanese Lounge

www.duo-japanese.com

 

So, when I was going through my new employee orientation, I was given a propaganda magazine designed to inform me of exactly how wonderful was the area to which I had just moved.  One of the articles described a new Japanese restaurant owned and operated by a famous Japanese restaurateur.  I lost the magazine, but assumed that Duo must have been the place.  I was wrong, but I’m still glad I went.

My first suspicions that this wasn’t a terribly Nihonjin Japanese place was from the website.  The word “Duo” isn’t Japanese, but that by itself a red flag.  The iconography though…  a white girl in the lotus position in front of a ring of fire?  With gold bangles?  Does that pose and outfit strike anyone as a bit Thai?  I had a very pleasant waitress that confirmed that the owners and the majority of the staff (including herself) were Chinese, and got their recipes out of books.

Granted, I have never been in Japan, so all my knowledge/expectation about Japanese cuisine comes from translated sources (mostly Korean, but also the lamentably short-lived restaurant Nari, and the Americanized Morimoto) but I found it interesting that the courses I found most Japanese were the courses not on the menu.  

I ordered:

Gyoza

Maguro and Hamachi nigiri-zushi

Steak (Hey, I felt like steak, OK?)

I am a dumpling fiend.  I learned how to make them just so I wouldn’t bankrupt myself.  I have a nearly infinite capacity for them.   These gyoza were not bad, but not particularly great.  Likewise with the sushi.  Just OK.  And they didn’t have tamago on the menu, which again, would have been a red flag had I not already confirmed the non-Japanese origin of the place.  The steak was probably the best-cooked steak I’ve ever had in my entire life.  It was the kind of steak that Ruth’s Chris would use on advertising.  A two inch tenderloin filet, lean, with three millimeters of sear on the outside, shifting to red and then a barely-perceptible line of purple in the very center.  Lean and marvelous.  I do wish that it had come with a dipping sauce of some sort, because as it was so thick and so lean, it was a bit bland (though the cooking kept it from being either tough or dry).  That quibble aside, it was a fantastic steak.

The true surprises, and the most truly Japanese were what came to the table before and after what I initially ordered.  There was an amuse-bouche of seasoned cold soba noodles topped with a wafer-thin slice of raw salmon.  Truly excellent.  And at the end of the meal, I asked my server about dessert (there was no dessert menu) and for whatever reason, I ordered what she described as crème brulée.  What showed up at the table was actually three mini crème brulées, one each flavored very slightly with mango, sesame, and ginger.  This was also a very pleasant surprise, and really quite good – and Japanese.  Subtle, worth thinking about, well executed concept, a very good dish.

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