The all-day chameleon restaurant is a familiar idea, with pastries and omelettes at breakfast, salads and sandwiches at lunch, and fine dining at night. This is the formula that Balthazar nailed, and many others have copied.
This is also the plan at Duet Brasserie, which opened under the radar in late fall 2014, in the old Centro Vinoteca space, a spacious corner lot where Barrow Street meets Seventh Avenue South. The address is on Barrow, but most of the footprint faces onto Seventh.
Most of the downstairs dining room is dominated by floor-to-ceiling French doors, which will open in good weather, presumably with a sidewalk café, but the charmless view onto lower Seventh Avenue is not much of a selling point. Neither is the room itself, which is bisected by display cases showing off the ample selection of baked goods, protected under glass in harsh lighting more suited for a retail bakery.
The publicity photos show an elegant upstairs room, with white tablecloths and a custom-made Swarovski crystal chandelier. That room wasn’t in use the night we visited—a very slow Christmas eve, which attracted only a few customers. Instead, we were seated downstairs, where Duet Brasserie feels like a diner.
If only they charged diner prices. On the French-inflected menu, starters are mostly $12–28, entrées $32–48, side dishes $9–14. There’s also a $75 four-course prix fixe. The website shows a $200 ten-course tasting menu, but the staff did not offer that to us (nor would we have taken them up on it).
The chef here is Dmitry Rodov (his wife, Diana, is the pastry chef). His stated aim is to serve “home cooking, beautifully presented,” and this is generally the case, but many less expensive restaurants do the same, as well or better. The chef needs to prove he can operate a restaurant where no entrée is below $32, and at this he fails.