Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dine on Nine: duo

My review of duo restaurant is the latest entry for a series of reviews I am calling Dine on Nine.  Route 9 goes all across the south of Vermont and is lined with several communities between Bennington and Brattleboro.  People from all walks of life end up on this little stretch of highway, and there are not just fun diners, drive ins and dives, but fine dining establishments offering up classic as well as innovative fare.  Some may be a few hundred yards off the highway, up a little lane, and those may end up providing the best meal you or I have ever had.

Let the duo evening begin! Cabin Fever in the foreground, Hermit in the Woods in the background

A room with a view: one of the nice things about duo is the location on the corner of Main and High streets. The two walls along the streets are all windows, so the daylight floods in, you can watch the light change as the sun sets, and there are great views of one of the busiest intersections in town.  You know you're right in the middle of things. Hanging reclaimed windows define spaces in the dining room, so the light is unimpeded.  I really enjoy the sense of openness that these transparent materials create.

Duo is committed to using local sources and forming partnerships with local farms.  I will always support this effort, and duo staff make the most of what they get, which is a bonus!

For a recent visit, the "Hermit in the Woods" cocktail, with hops and pine bitters was the most surprising of the evening.  The cinnamon sugar rim on the "Cabin Fever" was somewhat jarring and didn't seem to belong to the same drink as the rest of the ingredients. But all the cocktails did the job that they are meant to do, so the party started on the right foot.

On one of our evenings at duo we ordered drinks and then had all six of the appetizers - it was a great way to get a variety of interesting flavors in tidbit sizes. Since this restaurant provides a seasonal menu, it won't be relevant for me to try to run down every dish.  Suffice it to say that duo goes far, far beyond wings and fried mozzarella. The night we were there we tasted a lovely variety of newer, fresher, interesting flavor combinations. Each appetizer has its little quirky side, and along with cocktails they woke up the party.

After appetizers we shared three entrees: The lamb shank was solid - everyone felt like the saffron rice was improved with salt, otherwise somewhat bland and not supportive enough for the beautifully tender shank.  Once the rice was properly salted we scarfed with abandon. The mushroom ravioli captured everyone's attention with the texture of the pasta and the intensity of the flavors. The bass on gazpacho [fish of the day] was the evening favorite. While it appeared to be bass on just another tomato sauce, it was a smash hit as people realized that the all-fresh gazpacho was enlivening and an excellent complement. We kept asking for more spoons to slurp up the great sauces on both the appetizers and the entrees.

To add a spring accent rhubarb was the fruit instead of apple in the dessert crostata, and combined with the creme fraiche gelato it knocked my socks off. The frozen lemon mousse with  raspberry sorbet wasn't bad either. But since the menu will change with the seasons and local availability of foods, these specifics are passing examples. I trust that duo will be making up great dishes with what they find any time of the year.

There are plenty of typical family restaurants in the area that serve the common American menus, so duo stands out as a different experience. They maintain a framework of the expected beef, pork fish and poultry dishes, but make them extraordinary with excellent sauces and presentations. The combination of the thoughtful, well-prepared food and the wise and stylish use of the space make this a good context for enjoying friends and family at brunch or dinner.

LorreBob sez: go and try some of this good local food for yourself!  

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