Gabriel and I had tickets to see a show at the Florida Studio Theater last night so we asked my father for a recommendation of a restaurant nearby to have dinner first. As a newbie in the area, I’m excited about so many options to choose from, many with great reviews online. My father suggested that we make a reservation at Duval’s for good food, reasonable prices and close proximity to the theater.
I made a reservation on Open Table for 6:30 for the 2 of us, and we lucked out in getting a parking spot directly across the street. When we went in, it was clear that we really didn’t need the reservation after all. There were about 8 people total inside the large space. Oh yeah, it’s Easter! I guessed most people were with their families.
I loved that there was a flat screen tv behind the bar upon which you can watch the chef preparing meals. Talk about transparency in a kitchen! It was spotless in there and very entertaining to see the 2 chefs working together on their preparations.
The waiter came out right away to take drink orders and bring our menus to us. Soon after, he returned with ice water with lemon (which I love and it seems that all of the restaurants do that around here) and a basket of bread and butter. The bread was doughy and fresh, but it was served cold and we would have preferred it to be warmed. He also went over the specials, all of which sounded very appealing.
I started with the Harvest Salad, a small starter of romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion and great, chunky blue cheese dressing. The salad was on the small side, but as an accompaniment to my entree, and priced at only $2.50, it was the perfect size for me. For my entree I had the Trout Almandine, one of my favorites. When I see it on a menu, I almost always go for it. It was served with butternut squash and lemon/dill mashed potatoes. I asked for the chef to go light on the butter and was very pleased that he took my request to heart. The fish was cooked perfectly. Rather than being served with the slivers of almonds on top like most restaurants do it, this filet was crusted in a coating of ground almonds which made for a crisp and flavorful layer. The mashed potatoes were awesome, with a bright lemony flavor but I could hardly taste the dill- even though I could see it clearly. The squash was al dente, cooked with onions, mushrooms and balsamic and it was a lovely side to my fish, but being that the potatoes were already a carb-laden side, I would have preferred a green, less starchy vegetable.
I don’t usually write about what Gabriel orders if I’m not sharing with him, but this time it’s worth a quick mention. He had the crab and shrimp stuffed salmon which I had a taste of and I thought it was excellent. His side of risotto with mushrooms was also awesome.
We both completely cleaned our plates which really didn’t leave room for dessert. We looked over the offerings anyway, but nothing really jumped out at me as a ‘please make a little more room for me’ necessity. The waiter described the bread pudding and it did sound delicious, but we were really both too full to manage it this time.
Given the great service, appealing menu, easy location and reasonable prices, I think we’ll definitely be back!