Restaurant Review: Duc’s Bistro

Duc’s Bistro

  • 1188 Maunakea Street
    Honolulu, HI 96817-5134
  • (808) 531-6325
  • Monday- Friday, Lunch:  11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.; Dinner:  5:00 p.m – 10:00 p.m
  • Saturday and Sunday – Dinner only, 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
  • Style: Traditional Vietnamese and Classic French

Getting the Good: Duc’s Bistro definitely captures a nice atmosphere for a French and Vietnamese bistro. The food is simple and good. The word “light” comes to mind.  There are some good standout dishes off the menu and the service is very good, “personable” I’d say.

Battling the Bad: The portions feel a little small when shared beyond three people. While the food is good some of the flavors are not spectacular and do not stand out It is located in Chinatown, therefore parking can be a problem, but the restaurant does validate for the lot across the street to help accommodate.

Bottom line: I recommend this restaurant for a small group of two to three people due to the portion sizes. It is a nice solid experience for those who want to try French and Vietnamese cuisine, as the food is good and the ambiance matches. Beyond that I’d say lunch returns are a better bet for me than dinner just because the food is solid, and nothing that really stands out.


3 Shiso Leaves

Duc’s Bistro feels like a bistro. Redundant, I know, but Duc’s is this quaint, little restaurant at the end of Honolulu Chinatown. It adds a little class and atmosphere to the end of its street. The red-neon sign screams at you from a wet, dark street (it rained the night we went) to come on in and warm up. When you go in there are red-papered lights and an extensive beverage bar welcoming you and you feel like it’s a restaurant from a different era; due to its cuisine it definitely wants to play up that traditional and classical vibe. However, there is a nice NYC edge to the bistro as well.

Spring rolls were springy and rolly the way they were meant to be.

The service was great. It was nice to have the owner talking us through the menu and asking us questions. He also had suggestions based on our likes and dislikes. The staff was friendly and overall speedy.

It tastes like tartar, no not the stuff on your teeth, like the way raw beef should taste.

Anyway, I know you want to hear about the main thing a food blog should be talking about, the food. So as a group of seven people we ordered an assortment of appetizers and entrees, which we proceeded to share family-style. For appetizers we ordered Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls, Escargots Chablisienne, and Beef Tartar. I’ve had various incarnations of all the appetizers, and I would say the ones at Duc’s are decent. Nothing struck me as different or new, but just solid. In fact, I think I liked the Beef Tartar the best, but can safely say I’ve had better.

For entrees we selected the Lamb Curry, Lemongrass Chicken, Breast of Duck Saigon, and something else I can’t remember. That feeling of I can’t remember should already tell you something. I felt the same way about the entrees as I did with the appetizers. Except for one thing, I do recommend the Lamb Curry. I’ll use someone else’s taste buds to demonstrate. I love lamb, and my best friend does not. However, he liked this dish. Basically, the gaminess of the lamb mixes well with the mildness of the curry. It is essence builds on that flavor. Also it is cooked right and not chewy.

This is someone's plate of stuff, which I can't remember what is on it, which says something about the meal or my memory, I'd like to think it's the meal.

We also had selected the Jasmine Rice as our starch, which was fine. It was a good consistency and supported all the dishes. For drinks, they have an awesome assortment of fruit drinks. I really like the Pineapple because it’s like drinking a candied pineapple. It was very light and refreshing. I think that someone’s experience might be different at Duc’s, if they also went with some of the wines they have on hand. It might add to the dishes, as we did not order any wine that night. I will say in terms of drinks and great staff, the owner makes a neat espresso. He can layer it nicely, and with a swish the espresso layers stay in place. It is really quite neat.

I imagine the Pecan Tart saying in the background, "Back off! Or the Ginger gets it!" because it is a tart . . .

To wrap-up we basically each chose one dessert. All-in-all the desserts were good. None of the tastes really stood out, but they were all nice enders to a good meal. In particular, the group seemed to like the Ginger Fantasy and the Bitter Sweet Pecan Tart. I stuck with a Chocolate Ganache Cake, which I would say at this point see to my above comments.

Overall, I’d say the experience was enjoyable. Would I go back? That’s the thing, I usually go back to a place because I am craving a dish or a particular set of dishes. I’m not sure if Duc’s Bistro would be my first choice. If I did go back, I would recommend the Lamb Curry and I would probably go there for lunch, as I would not order much and have a nice pineapple drink to go with that. For some reason, I think that Duc’s Bistro is a good lazy afternoon place to get something tasty with a friend or two. It feels like a bistro.

As you can see I have no pictures of the lamb, I’d like to explain through a “thank you.” Our HGC-photographer, Jon,  made these pictures stand out given the lighting. While the red-papered lights do set up a nice glow to the restaurant, they also wreaks havoc with cameras. So thanks Jon! Check out his photostream on Flickr for the HGC.

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