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Eating @ ... Duo Dining Room & Bar

 Duo image-x3

It feels like we’ve stumbled on one of Christchurch’s best kept foodie secrets – our table is littered with brightly-coloured plates of stunning, ‘modern Asian’ deliciousness and it’s just too close a race to call a favourite. What’s more, we can’t even adopt the tried and true ‘whittle them down from the least favourite’ scenario, such are the dishes’ across-the-board excellence.

Sitting within the YMCA, with killer street frontage on Rolleston Avenue serving up epic views of the Botanic Gardens from a sun-drenched al fresco area, DUO Dining Room & Bar fuses a funky, en-pointe hip vibe with some seriously boundary-pushing Asian fare.

Inside it’s all smiles from super-friendly, on game staff and industrial cool by way of a black pressed ceiling, slick black-tiled bar, naked black wire lamp shades and some edgy urban street art-style muralage.

Hit the bar and grab a frosty glass of Asahi or Somersby Cider (both on tap), or get into the modern Asian (it’s going to be a thing, trust us!) mode with an exotic cocktail – maybe a lychee mojito or the super fresh summer sessional lady coriander – a party-in-the-mouth inducing mix of fresh coriander, lime, Malibu and ginger beer, the perfect accompaniment for the sensory explosion that is head chef’s Phil Watkins’ bodacious menu without borders.

Utilising a strong, traditional Chinese base, culinary alchemist and local lad Watkins, who cut his teeth at Wanaka’s Bistro Gentil, adds flourishes of Korean, Thai and Japanese elements to create whole new flavour sensations.

Making everything in-house (down to the brioche buns and Korean BBQ sauce on the katsu chicken burger) the wildly talented Watkins practically serves his heart on his plates.

Tackling his carefully curated menu we settle on pork and chive wonton soup, steamed pork and prawn dumplings, crispy eggplant, 24-hour cured salmon and a vegetarian yellow curry.

The wontons and dumplings come out first, glistening, moist and succulent. Sitting in a delicate, perfectly balanced broth, the addition of toasted sesame seeds and spring onions gives the wontons a delightful, nutty freshness while chilli vinegar brings some an exquisite heat to the dumplings.

Next up, the crispy eggplant is pretty much the best eggplant dish I’ve ever tasted – its tangy, crunchy-chewy sticky Sichuan coating and creamy flesh combo makes it straight-up addictive. Similarly habit-forming is the ocean-fresh cured salmon, which melts in the mouth and lingers on the palate alongside the sweet acidity of the ponzu mayonnaise and coriander.

Fresh herbs, pumpkin, fried tofu and mushrooms enveloped in a creamy curry awash with the delicate flavours of cumin, coriander, turmeric and fenugreek knock the yellow curry out the park, while a cashew nut dukkha sprinkled over the steamed rice adds a nice crunchy texture to the mix.

Time and stomach capacity restraints means we’ll have to tap the oatmeal cookie ice-cream sandwich with vanilla bean ice-cream and spiced butterscotch next time – when we take the ‘trust the chef’ option for spin. If there was ever a chef to trust – you’ll find him at DUO.

DUO Dining Room & Bar
12 Hereford Street (Main entrance on Rolleston Avenue)
03 423 1212


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Guest 24 February 2018