Duello: Allow Us To Reintroduce You
In relationships and restaurants, second chances are hard to come by. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, get blocked on social media and watch me take my money elsewhere. It seems the only way to seek mercy is an intervention and a complete menu overhaul.
Duello, formerly Simone, has risen to the challenge. The highly-anticipated Arts District restaurant had been open for a mere seven months before Chef Jason Beberman was ushered in as executive chef and tasked to revamp Simone as Duello.
The new menu takes inspiration from Chef Beberman’s travels throughout Asia, which features family-style entrees kicking with flavors rooted in acid, spice, and herbs. Meanwhile, his personal influence on cooking takes inspiration from the people that surround him. From Indian dinners in the homes of childhood friends to Mexican dishes prepared by the wives of dishwashers and prep cooks, Chef Beberman’s exposure to various cultures has led him to quickly learn new ingredients and techniques. The result is an ever-evolving cooking style that’s familiar in flavor but unique in experience.
“That's also the beauty of L.A. We're inspired by diversity and everything that's around, you know, we’re not limited to anything. We have fused with a diverse community of people in the Arts District and across the river in Boyle Heights, literally every day” says Beberman.
Having spent time in Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Japan, it was only natural for Asian-inspired dining to have made its way onto the menu—including eating with hands. One standout dish is the whole roasted sea bream sitting on a bed of pickled cauliflower and spicy red sauce. It’s meant to be enjoyed with friends and without forks, simply peel back the charred skin and tear at its flaky, white meat with abandon. Don’t forget to poke at the meaty bits near the collar, that’s where the fish is most rich. There’s no shame in this act, just as long as you had washed your hands and reserve finger-licking at the end of the meal.
“In Vietnam, it’s common for people to sit on the curb with plastic stools and start picking at their food, it’s just total community. And for me, that was the ultimate expression in dining, because there's zero pretension. It’s the most informal thing ever and I want to sneak that into the dining experience here or wherever I go from here” says Beberman.
If you’re not yet ready to dine sans silverware, smaller dishes like cucumbers marinated in cultured coconut milk and pickled chayote squash are excellent when shoveled by the spoonful. The crisp, refreshing taste of cucumber bites back with a hit of acid, then neutralized by creamy, coconut milk. Think of it as a flavor drive-by for your palate. For thirsty patrons, try The Dacian, a large format cocktail swimming with tequila, mango brandy, squavit, skyr, lemon, agave and served in a novelty skull cup. Sip it, share it, and definitely Instagram it.
In just a few short months, Duello has taken on a new persona in food, drink, and service. Chef Beberman’s overhaul proves this restaurant doesn’t need a second chance from DTLA but is establishing themselves as a brand new hot spot on the block. Duello, we’re very pleased to meet you.
Written by Janica de Guzman | Photography by Jack Strutz