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    Date Night Review: Dukes La Jolla

    Written by: Elyse Sinsay

    Have I mentioned I love my husband? Well, I do. I am also VERY proud of him. He works his ass off every day, long hours, fighting for a level of standard that is becoming less and less existent these days with cooks who just want to take it easy, and is still one of the most creative guys I know. I am just so PROUD of him. I know we fight about him being gone so much, but that has never take away the amount of admiration I have for him when I see what he accomplishes every day, and the company he is now a part of is just so blessed he is there leading them into their new future. It’s beyond exciting. So, I thank TS Restaurants for accepting my husband for the brilliant man that he is, and moving forward into the sun of a new day because the future is bright at Dukes La Jolla.

    Opening day is a big deal in any restaurant. It’s go time. Everything is supposed to be perfect. People are waiting. The bosses are all there expecting everything to go off without a hitch. So, you better have your shit together. When we walked up to Dukes last night, it sure looked perfect to me. Everyone was so welcoming as soon as you took that final step down the stairs. I even had the stroller with me so I got to use the elevator, it was cool and convenient. Once you enter the hostess stand is directly to the left and there are two levels. Both have patio seating with heaters and a great view of the cove. (Side note, reservations are recommended, but not required.) The décor of the place was wood with splashes of color and ocean life. Not overdone and tasteful. Surfboards adorn the walls as well as photos of waves and Duke himself. We were seated immediately at a comfortable table, I hate at some places where you feel squished. The whole floor was open and so comfortable. Our waitress greeted us promptly with water and took our drink order and informed us of any specials as well as the fish for the evening.

    Looking around the entire staff was friendly and seemed genuinely happy to be there. So refreshing. I would also like to note that the kid menu options were great and if the kid’s complete one of the games they get a prize at the end of their meal. Incentive for good behavior. There were various tables set up for large parties but many tables that provided an intimate setting. If you are willing to brave the cold, the patio is quite romantic. Great for date night with the hubby. They have lights set up and while they do have heaters the breeze does get strong, just a warning. But the view is fantastic.

    Once we settled in to our seats, I tried to order something from each section so you could see the variety. There were gluten free options available for those who like/need those options as well as vegetarian options on the menu as well. One of the dishes was a vegetarian option we just added to it. So, without further ado, Dukes:

    Dukes La Jolla

    Executive Chef: Anthony Sinsay

    General Manager: Shaughn Helliar

    1216 Prospect Street La Jolla, CA 92037

    Phone: (858)454-5888

    Website: www.dukeslajolla.com

    *Located just doors down from Georges on the Cove.*

    Appetizers (To Start) 

    Calamari– Macadamia nut, black sesame seeds, panko.

    Sauce- guava, Chinese mustard, remoulade.

    What can I say about this dish? Well, first it is not the calamari you get at the Olive Garden that’s for sure. It’s way better. And more filling, because it actually has some meat in there. And it’s not rubbery either. It’s so good. The crust is just crunchy enough to give you enough texture but it doesn’t take away from the meatiness of the squid. The sauce that comes with it is out of this world too. Its sweet but then tangy at the same time. Sweet from the guava but tangy from the mustard. It reminds me of thousand island but LITERALLY on an island because Duke was Hawaiian, so it just picked up floral essences that the thousand should represent. Get this calamari, calamari lovers. It’s worth a bite.

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    Mussels Adobo– Mussels, vinegar, soy sauce, water, jalapeno, shallots, garlic, pan de sal.

    This is one of my husband’s signature dishes. He loves this dish. It reminds him of his parents. It reminds him of family. Of what it’s important in life. It’s a simple dish but isn’t it the simple things in life that make life great? This is also one of our, as a family, favorite things to eat. The kids love it, I love it too. I warms a special place in your belly when you eat it. It’s like all the ingredients reduced together to make this delicious buttery/salty/caramel that has a burst of jalapeno, onion and garlic every so often and the mussels just took a bath in it all and soaked it up. But guess what?! They gave you some bread too to soak up all that deliciousness. My only complaint about this dish is that they never give you enough bread… It’s just that good.

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    Tahitian Octopus– Smoked papaya, compressed cucumber, heirloom tomatoes, coconut lime vinaigrette, octopus is cooked confit.

    Liam actually ate this one for his dinner. Yes, a two year old ate this for his meal. He is classy like that. He loved it. Almost ate the whole thing too. Boy can eat. But with parents like us, it doesn’t surprise us, it makes us proud. It’s delicious though. Because the confit it its soft but firm. Not rubbery like you would expect octopus to be. I gotta say, seafood is my husband’s thing, you will not be disappointed with this. When you eat it together with all the other elements it will take you to a refreshingly smooth smoky place. Sounds like an unlikely combination but it is possible, and each bite just develops that flavor even more.

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    Entrees 

    (Swimmers)

    Fish Tacos– Cabbage, Rajas, Salsa Verde, China rose radish sprouts, chips with tajin, local white fish.

    I love tacos. Be it that I am Latin. I love them. These were spicy too. Not burn your mouth off spicy but they had a good kick to them spicy. And the fish was delicate but firm, cooked perfectly. Great for tacos. The rajas in it were so good, I could have dipped my chips in it but the chips came with salsa! The tortilla that came with the taco was so good too. You could tell it was fresh. I really appreciate just simple straightforward food and this was a great simple fish taco. All of the flavors were developed and when you ate it you appreciated that.

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    (Main Landers)

    Pan Roasted Jidori Chicken– preserved lemon, lacinato kale, pearl onion, and persimmon jus.

    At one point in time my family used to make fun of me because I would eat chicken all the time. So, I like to think of myself as a chicken aficionado. I appreciate a good bird. This bird is D-E-Licious. Oh Mylanta. It is so tender and juicy and the skin on the outside has a slight crunch to it. This dish is gluten free too people. You wouldn’t think so though. The sauce that comes with it tastes like the mother of all butter sauces came down and blessed us with the 9th wonder of the world for us to eat. But wait, there’s more! The kale and the onions. The kale is cooked to be tender but still has a little crunch to it and the onions are caramelized to when you mix it into the sauce it makes your life a little bit brighter. Try it. You’ll thank me later… Please excuse me while I clean up my drool, I’m hungry again.

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    Vegetarian Ramen– aged noodles, brined egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, snap peas, char siu squash, and a charred veggie broth.

    Felicity, our eight year old, ordered and ate this. She is our resident ramen eater. If there is ramen on a menu she will eat it. Rain or shine. Hot or Not. She is crazy. Girl loves her soup. So, if her dad made ramen for her she is for damn sure gonna eat it. First, I must say if you order this it is a GIANT bowl. So, come hungry and go easy on the apps. Trust me. This bowl is Mary Poppins bag of ramen. I don’t know how ONE person is supposed to finish it. But when you put our face in it, it’s everything you want ramen to be. A warm hug from your grandma you never had, and you just dive in. the broth tastes like someone spent time and care on it because the flavor is so developed you forget that it’s a veggie option. The noodles in it are fresh and sticky, the way they are supposed to be and the veggies are cooked but have somehow managed to hold on to their crunch, except the squash, that you just go digging for them like buried treasure. Then there is the egg… words cannot describe the egg. You just gotta eat it. It’s like finding the end of the rainbow. How do you describe that? Order this one with the colder days we are having. It’s worth every bite.

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    Sides

    Eggplant Miso– fried with a light breading, saikyo miso, sesame yogurt, mint leaves.

    I don’t know how they did this but it was like they turned the eggplant into a tofu/butter or something. And you have to eat everything together. It was a sweet richness that I was not expecting that you just can’t help but keep putting back in your mouth. The secret I think was the mint. It added another dimension to the dish that was kind of floral in a way but bright to how smooth everything else was.

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    Kennebec Fries– shiso togarashi salt, ketchup.

    HANDS DOWN, BEST FRIES IN EVER. SERIOUSLY. When these beautiful spuds came into creation my life had changed. Then we no longer had the ability to make them. I cried, I screamed, I went through the five stages, people. But now, they are back by popular demand (I like to think my demand) and I get to enjoy them once again. These are not your everyday, run of the mill fry. Oh no. these fries take time, days to make actually to reach optimum perfection. They are crunchy and have the right amount of salt. They are the perfect fry. They don’t even need the ketchup. They. Are. Sooooo. Good. Please, if you like fries, if you have ever had a fry in your life, you need to have these. They will change your life.

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    Salt roasted Carrots– roasted in carrot ash salt crust, hot basil sesame, citrus.

    These carrots are pampered carrots. They went to a spa for carrots, got ribbed and baked in carrot ash, then got a facial of basil oil and citrus. But like any good spa trip, it was worth it. These carrots are yummy. Not greasy at all, but actually have a bit of a roast crispness to them. They are sweet and tangy. Just a little bit of brightness you can add to any meal you want. It’s a good addition. I put them with my tacos. It was a good idea…

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    Dessert

    Caramelized Pineapple– coconut rum gel, coconut pound cake, captain crunch panna cotta.

    Who likes Pina Coladas? I know you do. This dessert is for all of us who like Pina coladas. When you take all the elements together in one bite it tastes just like one. It’s pretty crazy. The gel is actually rum too! I just love pineapple, thanks Dad, so I couldn’t pass on this dish. The panna cotta was awesome too. Captain crunch? Um, yes please. Desserts are not supposed to be fun for just the kids any more…

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    Mango Sorbet– from Gelato Vero, fresh mango.

    Mango Sorbet. From a gelato place. I don’t think I need to say that this was the smoothest sorbet I have had in a while… the kids loved it. I loved it. Indulgence can be a little healthy too… J

    Well, that was it. My adventures at Dukes La Jolla. I know you might be thinking that I have a biased opinion because I know the Chef, but I am not only his biggest supporter but his most honest critic. I do come from the same background, you know. So trust the food judgements because I am a chef too, or was. But have faith because Anthony is an amazing Chef and I wouldn’t lie about that either. Either way you are in for a memorable experience at Dukes La Jolla, with or without the kids. Reservations are recommended but no required, and the price ranges from $7- $48. Pretty reasonable for the cove. Lunch will be coming soon and eventually they will be doing brunch, so many great things to come. Until next time, have a very merry un-birthday to you!

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