Expanding on Ernie’s post of Duo’s opening, here’s a summary of our three lunch visits:
New owners (Latino, not Korean as was chef Bo/Ramen Kitchen). Simple menus for B/L/D but some nice touches on the food have made it our new fav, now that Mama’s Royal/Oakland and Royal Cafe/Albany have slid a level.
We liked Duo better than H&J/El Cerrito as well. More comfortable, better food quality (altho both use those Smuckers jam packets, LOL). When you make a special request at Duo, it’s handled without flaw. We’re retired and dine out over 200+/yr. It’s shocking how many kitchens will flub even the simplest requests.
Eggs are timed properly; over-easy comes exactly as it should be. Request medium-rare on the meat and you get it. The NY Strip breakfast steak looked and tasted more like a well-trimmed sirloin steak, but although thin with no crust it was a flawless medium rare. Spouse said it was a good value and he would be happy to order it again.
Open faced crab sandwich also pleased my spouse; he said it was one of the best he’d had in a long time. Liked it so much he ordered it again on our last visit! It’s mayo-based, not sour cream or creme fraiche (both of which he loathes with a passion). He requested grilled tomatoes instead of diced hash browns or fries. Even mediocre supermarket tomato slices, given a quick turn on the grill, were okay with him.
There is only one burger. Not a fan of whole jalapenos so pulled it out; the spicy aioli was just right for me. Duo’s beef was tastier than H&J, possibly due to pre-salting. Duo’s bun is a little on the fragile side, however.
Fries were OUTSTANDING. These are true Russet-variety potatoes - note that the hash browns on breakfast plates are red potatoes, nicely well-browned and good, but different. Russet/Kennebec potatoes make the best fries and baked potatoes; their interiors are creamy and flavorful rather than mealy and full of air pockets. Duo also offers the standard frozen hash browns (shredded potatoes), which is unusual as few breakfast places are willing to offer all three potato preparations.
Duo’s Solano Omelet has the same ingredients as Royal Cafe’s Solano Scramble, but I do prefer Royal’s scramble to Duo’s omelet for this combo of ingredients. Still, it was tasty although undersalted. The Parmesan hash browns were salty from the cheese, so overall the dish was fine. The eggs are firm but the omelet has no dreaded “brown spots”.
Short stack was a no-go for us. We are fond of the classic Southern short stack, made with soft (cake) flour. Duo’s pancakes are tasty but rather elastic, more like a yeasted batter. They are also very big! Each pancake is as big as the entire plate and the two of them totaled almost an inch in height!
BBQ baby ribs, coconut BBQ sauce, sweet potato fries, mac’n’cheese w/bacon.
Very generous serving of six short, very meaty back ribs. A couple were on the dry side, but spouse was very pleased most of the fat had been rendered out. All were tender, “fall off the bone” (which of course, isn’t actually classic good BBQ [grin]). The sauce surprised us. We are NOT big BBQ sauce fans; in fact we usually eat our ribs plain. This looked like a typical tomato-based sauce but the coconut flavor was very prominent and it went great with the pork.
Sweet potato fries were very good but alas, they never keep well as leftovers so some were wasted. The mac’n’cheese has a sour cream base, so I was fine with it but spouse couldn’t eat it. It’s the creamy white sauce style. There was the nice touch of housemade, crispy, browned breadcrumbs on top, which is so often omitted from restaurant versions.
Brussels Sprouts Salad. I almost forget this! and I shouldn’t because we’ve ordered it twice now. The sprouts are halved, cored, and quickly tossed tossed in a skillet with apple cider vinegar and nicely crisped bacon bits, and a quartered small hard-boiled egg. It’s excellent and a generous size for 2 to share; 3-4 is optimum. Highly recommended!
Key Lime Coconut Cheesecake. This comes in an individual mold, not a slice. The first time it had a thick bottom layer of graham cracker crumbs and coconut shreds; the second time a thinner layer but more filling. The lime flavor was also brighter the first time, a little thinner the second – so a touch variable here, as if they were still experimenting. A small pouf of whipped cream on top.
Bourbon Creme Brulee. I’m a serious bourbon lover and this has a BIG hit of bourbon in it. This improves the texture of the custard as well, which is thickened with cornstarch. The booze loosens it up a bit so it’s less “gluey”. The sugar crust is thin and delicate, as it should be. I told Joel, the waiter, to tell the kitchen this dish should never change. It’s great as is
Visit #1: Two people, lunch: one starter, two mains, one dessert, two beverages, without tip was $54
Visit #2: Two people, breakfast: two mains, one side order, two beverages, without tip $45
Don’t have my receipt in front of me for visit #3, but it ran within the same range as the first two.
Duo Grill House
1491 Solano Ave., Albany, CA