Friday, February 14, 2014

Duke's Malibu

It was a spontaneous idea to eat a late lunch at Duke's in Malibu today.  It was just such a beautiful day with perfect weather, and we had no plans for Valentine's Day.  We called ahead to make sure they were having their normal lunch menu, which they were, and then we headed to the coast.  We would've made a reservation, but they were all full for reservations for the day.  However, the lady on the phone said that they reserved a third of their restaurant for walk-ins.  The winding drive down Topanga Canyon can be beautiful, but it is also full of twists and turns.  Keep that in mind if (like us) you're coming from the valley.

We probably could've found street parking if we really tried, but we decided to make it easy on ourselves and just go with valet.  This was the first time we've ever parked our own car at valet.  The valet directed us to park our car directly behind another car.  It's basically stacked parking, but the valets can move cars around when guests are ready to leave.

There were people waiting in the lobby when we arrived.  The hostess said the wait was about 20 minutes.  It was probably around 2:20pm, and lunch ends in the dining room at 3pm.  The hostess mentioned that there's open seating in the bars and on the patio if we wanted to check that out.  She put our name in, gave us a buzzer, and we walked down the hall towards the bar area.  The whole restaurant has windows facing the ocean, so as we walked, we had a great view.  

There are 2 bars.  The first one looks like it's kind of behind the restaurant area, elevated from the booths below.  At the second bar, the whole area is open seating.  There were open tables and seats at the bar when we arrived, but none of them were right next to the water, so we kept walking, hoping for a better view.  We walked out onto the patio, which is just past the second bar area, and all of the tables were taken.  However, there was a counter against the wall with 5 stools, all of which were empty, and it was right next to the water.  We decided to sit there and keep an eye out on the other tables to see if someone left.

We had never been to this Duke's before, although we've passed it many times coming and going when we have beach days at Point Dume.  We ate at the Duke's in Maui and loved it, so we've been wanting to compare the two.  First of all, the Duke's in Malibu has a better view than in Maui.  You're closed to the water, and you can hear the waves crash from your table.  I highly recommend sitting on the patio.  It was 75 and sunny on Valentine's Day.  It's not everywhere you can eat outside at the coast in February and not even need a jacket.

My husband went to the bar inside to ask about menus.  He was told that a waitress would come out and give us menus.  After waiting about 10 minutes, we still didn't have menus, so he went back to the bar and came back with menus this time.  I'm not saying anything bad about the waitress.  Service was kind of slow, but it looked like all of the waiters/waitresses had a lot of tables to handle, and we weren't in a rush.  My husband always seems to be in a rush, but I said to him, "Let's just enjoy being here.  We don't have anywhere else to go."  It was nice just watching seals play in the water and couples stroll hand-in-hand on the beach below.

We had 2 menus to look over, the Barefoot Bar menu and the regular restaurant lunch menu.  The bar menu has a lot of options for starters, entrees, drinks, and daily happy hour specials.  There are some items that aren't included on the regular menu.  I will always eat in the bar at Duke's so I can order off of this menu!

Shortly after my husband came back with menus, the people sitting at the table right next to us got up to leave.  We hopped up and claimed their table before they were even out of their chairs.  It was necessary because there was another couple ready to swoop in only seconds later.  The table was perfect, right next to the water with a great view.  We were in the shade, which was nice.  I burn without sunscreen.  There were also heaters hooked to the bottom of the thatched roof umbrellas, and they came on about an hour later just as it started to get chilly.  It was perfect!

We decided to get a couple of starters off of the Barefoot Bar menu.  My husband chose the Panko Crusted Calamari, which comes with guava cocktail sauce and meyer lemon remoulade.  It was a nice big serving for sharing, or it could be a small meal for one person.  I loved that the calamari were strips and not tentacles.  I hate tentacles.  They were really meaty, lightly breaded and delicious.  I would definitely order them again, and I’m not usually a huge calamari fan.  

I chose to get the Crispy Coconut Shrimp for a starter.  Coconut shrimp is one of my favorite appetizers ever, but they had me at “lilikoi dipping sauce.”  “Lilikoi” is the Hawaiian word for Passion Fruit, and it conjures up delicious memories from Maui.  The starter came with 5 huge butterflied shrimp which were lightly breaded and juicy.  The lilikoi dipping sauce wasn’t as good with the coconut shrimp as I expected.  I actually liked the shrimp better without the sauce.  These were so good that even my husband liked them, and he doesn't usually like coconut.  However, next time I’d probably try something else, perhaps the Crab & Macnut Wontons, the Fisherman’s Chowder, or the Grilled Chicken Quesadilla.

For his entree, my husband ordered the Kalua Pork Mac & Cheese, which is only offered on the Barefoot Bar menu and on the dinner menu (not the lunch menu).  It’s described on the menu as “Luau style slow cooked pork, creamy white cheddar sauce, ditalini pasta.”  If you follow my blog, you know how much I love white cheddar.  I never would’ve thought of putting these ingredients together, but it was a brilliant idea.  It came in a hot, oven-baked bowl and was a decent size serving for something so hearty.  I ate a few bites, and it was love.  It’s awfully rich, so I don’t know that I’d be able to eat an entire meal of it, but my husband didn’t have a problem finishing it off.  We are so going to try to replicate this at home.  We already buy white cheddar and make kalua pork.  Look for a recipe in the future!  Oh, and yes, this is definitely a MUST order item.  Until we perfect it ourselves, I would definitely order this.

I ordered a salad from the main lunch menu, the Arugula & Farro salad.  This is the exact same salad I ordered at the Duke’s in Maui, and it was the best meal I had during that entire visit.  I just had to order it again here for comparison sake.  It’s described on the menu as “Fire roasted vegetables, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta, basil lemon vinaigrette.”  There are options to add citrus herb marinated fresh fish or fire grilled chicken breast.  There were 3 types of fresh fish, and I chose the Mahi Mahi.  I also asked for the salad without cucumbers.  I usually ask to have dressing on the side, but I didn’t this time.  The salad looked delicious and reminded me a lot of the one in Maui.  The fish wasn’t nearly as good though, I mean, how could it be?  It’s not like we catch fresh fish in Malibu the way they do in Maui.  They also forgot to leave out the cucumbers, so I had to pick them out.  I have trouble digesting them, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t accidentally eat one.  Overall, the salad was really good.  It wasn’t as amazing as what I remembered in Maui though.  Also, I hadn’t started making my Everyday Salad back when I was in Maui, and I think I’d prefer that salad over this one.  So, will I order this salad again?  No.  Did I enjoy eating it?  Yes.  Next time I might try the Turkey, Bacon & Burrata Sandwich, the Fish & Chips, or the Baja Fish Tacos.

We looked over the dessert menu, but we were too full at that point to even share something.  I was really impressed that the menu was shaped like a surfboard though, and if (when!) we come back, I'd probably try the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.

We left around 4:20pm, 2 hours after arriving.  It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.  There weren’t any tables available in the bar when we left.  The restaurant is closed daily from 3pm to 5pm, so I assume people who arrived early for their dinner reservation were starting with a drink in the bar.  It was really pretty painless considering it was Valentine’s Day and something we decided to do at the last minute.  Sometime I want to come back during sunset.  I’m sure there’s an amazing view from any table that time of day.

The valet was quick to get our car.  Valet parking only costs $3 before 4pm, and $4 after 4pm.  It’s worth it for convenience.  

Happy eating!

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