Nothing is more quintessential California than a restaurant on the beach overlooking the ocean. For Los Angelenos, we sometimes take for granted the ocean that is in our backyard. We tend to think of the restaurants that line the coast as tourist destinations.
But tourist or local, an afternoon or evening spent eating at Duke’s in Malibu is a great escape. After a beautiful drive up PCH to Malibu, you will find Duke’s 9 miles north of Santa Monica. Opened in 1996, Duke’s honors the father of modern day surfing and Olympian Duke Kahanamoku. The Hawaiian themed restaurant continues the traditions of the original “Ambassador of Aloha”.
I sat down at my window seat overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It may be Fall but in Los Angeles the sun continues to shine and the water has a calming effect. Far off in the distance I could see the Santa Monica Pier.
My server John, who has worked at Duke’s for 7 years, approached my table. With the passion of a new employee but the knowledge of an experienced one, John began to take me through dishes on the menu and describe the specials with detailed descriptions such as “tonight we have an 12oz. bone-in pork chop served lollipop with a clean bone. The pork chop is brined for 24 hours and then slow cooked sous vide, served over melted swiss chard greens and finished with Japanese plum and sake glaze, topped with plots and oven roasted vegetables, featuring sunchokes and romanesco.”
While this description had me drooling, I decided to focus on the fresh fish, as Duke’s specializes in fresh, sustainable fish. On the night I went, they had yellowfin ahi tuna, swordfish, Opa and Mahi Mahi. The menu includes 4 different preparations to chose from – Parmesan & Herb Crusted, Grilled Island Style, Seven Spice Ahi and Roasted Basil & Black Garlic. I went with Parmesan & Herb Crusted Opa which was sautéed with panko, macadamia nuts, lemon and capers, house rice and bok choy Asian slaw. Sounds rich and heavy but was very light.
Before the main dish, I also enjoyed a Farm Salad with kale, butter lettuce, grapefruit, avocado and candied macadamia nuts with a bright tangy ginger vinaigrette.
I also ordered the Poke Tacos with raw Ahi with shoyu, Maui onions and Wasabi aioli on top of avocado. Perfect bite size tacos with big chunks of tuna, the avocado definitely muted the wasabi spice.
As for drinks, Duke’s may be known for their Mai Tai but also offers fresh cocktails and a wine list that is worth taking a look at. Assistant General Manager / Wine Director Jimmy Chavez has put together a solid wine list featuring small wine producers and many local wines. It is so refreshing to see a large restaurant that attracts tourists and has multiple locations offer wines that are not found in grocery stores and to offer good quality expressions of the grapes and the places the wines come from.
Of course, at the end of the night, I couldn’t leave without ordering the Kimo’s Original Hula Pie with macadamia nut ice crram, oreo cookie crust, hot fudge and whipped cream. This is not a dessert for one person…and though I tried (with little success), I could not finish it!
Want to get away for the afternoon? Head to Duke’s. …the views, wines and food will make for a great escape.
21150 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu CA 90265