Duplex is Dreamy
(In Uptown off of 25th and Hennepin, in the old building that used to house Pandora's Cup)
This was a bullet point my lady friend and I wanted to hit for a while (who has driven up Hennepin in Uptown and hasn't passed this place millions of times? I always thought it was just "Restaurant with generic name that took over a beloved coffee house of mine") We agreed to meet some friends for dinner and left the decision up to them as to where they'd like to eat and Duplex won the toss. (For my part, I was excited to try the wild boar stew. Wild boar, btw. What are we, on Middle Earth?) We arrived early and discovered they were running late, which was a dangerous sign since we were both ravenous. We were welcomed in a cozy, intimate atmosphere (think open parlor living area with French bistro tables in lieu of couches and cabinets) and our server -who was cute as a button- was very gracious with letting us linger over the menu and make our decisions thoughtfully.
We started with scallops (For you see, my date likes to gauge restaurants based on their scallop preparation/presentation.) which we learned were the evenings special. They were sweet and delicious without even a hint of briny fish flavor, and were served with pureed sundried tomato and a balsamic reduction. Heavenly.
After consulting our server on the portion sizes, we agreed we wanted to try the fries and the black bean curry soup. The soup was sweet, delicious, and made for a very warming and comforting (you'll hear that term again in a minute) winter treat. I imagine that it'd be a great compliment to a meal as the portion size was definitely not prohibitive. And for the appetizer coup de grace-That damned poutine. Damn.
Get this: It was as if the chef decided to blend all the comfort foods of your youth in one ENORMOUS appetizer (the description says it all: "house cut fries topped with Eichten Acres raw milk white cheddar cheese curds and brown gravy") Highly addictive and a highlight of the evening, we could not stop eating them. (Think the best house cut fries mixed with the cheese of State Fair cheese curds and smothered in a rich pot roast gravy. As crazy as it sounds, it works on all levels. The same, however, cannot be said about my heart after eating this meal) If you're feeling in the mood for a rich and delicious dish to share, I'd recommend popping in just to give them a try with a glass of prosecco on the side. They were so good.
And we were so stuffed.
My date and her buddy ended up having the fettucine alfredo (with her buddy asking for broccolini to be added to the melange an my date kiboshing the pancetta) It was pretty standard Italian restaurant fare, tasty with out being to rich or cloying-nor the chicken charred too much giving the dish a sooty aftertaste. If you don't have an adventurous palate, this is a safe and delicious dish to enjoy.
Buddy #2 had the potato gnocchi which was outstanding. The gnocchi large, soft, pillowy, and it retained all the flavors (rosemary, shallot, parmesan, mushrooms) in every savory bite. (I'd like to point out that many new and newish restaurants are giving this underrated dish new life on their menus. So far we've had great success with the gnocchi variations at Nick and Eddies, Bar LaGrassa, and now Duplex.)
As for me, I went with my (by this point distended) gut and ordered the boar. It was kind of unremarkable (to be fair, at this point in the meal I was growing uncomfortably full) with my date labeled it as being "too gamey" but was my exact opposite reaction- Not really gamey enough. The meat was tender, and definitely retained the red wine it was simmered in, but I felt that taste sort of overpowered the dish itself. Not bad, it just won't be my first choice. (Think a higher-class Dinty Moore beef stew over crusty bread...if you added a cup of cabernet to the stew before serving.)
Dessert was "to go" (Grasshopper Cheesecake) and the only comments were where there could be better cheesecake had, and how the flourless chocolate cake sounded wonderful.
The setting was intimate without being too noisy (although conversations between other tables could be overheard), the wine selection serviceable, parking was easy enough, and I would highly recommend hitting Duplex for a date night.
Or just for the damned poutine.