Duke’s La Jolla recently opened. This San Diego branch is one of several Duke’s restaurants, named after Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swimming and water polo medalist and the father of modern surfing.
Last month, we were invited in to check out the new restaurant and menu. Taking over the former Top of the Cove venue, the two story restaurant boasts an amazing view of the ocean. We’ve dined at quite a few restaurants on the same street, but Duke’s, in my opinion, has the most unobstructed view of the ocean, especially if you score a seat on the patio. I felt like a tourist as I oohed and ahhed over the view. Unfortunately, we visited back in February, so it was already quite dark when we arrived. We definitely plan on coming back for brunch and happy hour to enjoy the view even more.
The interior of the restaurant is also quite beautiful. It’s sleek and modern, fitting of its location, but also still maintaining a casual and friendly surfer vibe, with surfboards placed throughout the restaurant.
Lavender Colada and Mai Tai
We started off with some tropical cocktails. Both were fun and delicious, though I preferred the Mai Tai, made with fresh squeezed passion, orange and guava juices and two types of rum.
COCONUT SHRIMP CROQUETTES
These fried balls of shrimp and coconut were quite tasty, reminding me of the Chinese-style fried shrimp balls often found at dim sum. The batter was light and crisp and the stuffing had a good amount of shrimp.
I really wish it wasn’t so dark during our visit, so that my photos would have come out better. This was a beautiful plate. I’ve always enjoyed octopus so I love that it’s become such a popular dish for chefs now. I can never resist trying octopus whenever it’s on the menu. I was very pleased with Duke’s version: tender char-grilled smoky octopus balanced with cucumber, papaya, fresh herbs, lime and coconut milk which added a brightness to the dish.
ROASTED FIRECRACKER FISH
Prepared with opah, the fish filet was accompanied with cabbage, gailan (aka Chinese broccoli), and ginger sprouts. With a name like firecracker, I was expecting something much more bold in flavor. The fish was perfectly cooked, but just mildly seasoned. I also felt that the vegetables had very strong vinegar and acidic notes. I don’t normally like vinegar, so this liberal use of it was a little too much for me. On the other hand, Mr. K loves to season his food with vinegar so this suited him perfectly.
BANANA LEAF STEAMED FISH & SHRIMP
For my dish, I chose the white seabass and shrimp steamed in banana leaves. I really enjoyed the coconut bamboo rice which was fragrant and light. I enjoyed the shrimp and fish as well, but again, felt like it was a little heavy on the vinegar and ponzu and wished for a little less. Mr. K had no issues polishing off what I didn’t finish.
This Portuguese treat was accompanied by guava jam. The just-fried dough balls were so fluffy and light that I didn’t even need the jam.
Of course, I couldn’t pass up on hula pie as it’s probably the thing I look forward to most at a Hawaiian inspired restaurant. Duke’s version did not disappoint and it was even served with a special hula pie spoon!
The massive macadamia nut ice cream pie was smothered with whipped cream and hot fudge. I need to go back just for the pie.
Overall, we had a fun visit here. I definitely want to check out their lunch and happy hour menu. When we spoke to the manager, we were told they would be starting brunch in the spring so I’m looking forward to that as well. I really love the view and can see this being the place I take guests to for ocean-view dining.
Duke’s La Jolla
1216 Prospect St, La Jolla CA 92037
Please note, as indicated above, we were invited to dine here and our meal was complimentary. All opinions expressed in this post remain my own.