Note: Duvet closed in late 2009 after multiple run-ins with the State Liquor authority.
At Duvet, there are plenty of signals that food is not the real attraction. This is one of those restaurants where most of the “tables” are beds. Their OpenTable profile warns in bold-face type that there is a two-hour time limit on all beds, as well as a two-appetizer or one-entree minimum per person. In other words, what they don’t want is for the Chelsea/Flatiron party set to occupy the beds and drink the night away.
Mind you, there is plenty of bar space for those who do want to drink, but the restaurant’s centerpiece is 30 very large beds and the vast space that accommodates them. The space is decorated in soft whites and off-whites. Programmed lights project a rotation of constantly changing hues on the walls. Wide-screen TVs show soothing videos. You’re encouraged to take off your shoes. Slippers are available at each bed. For our relatively early reservation, the space was still relatively empty, but I would imagine it gets packed later on.
For those who wimp out at the idea of eating in bed, as we did, there are a small number of tables available. We noted that the vinyl banquettes are somewhat worse for the wear, including even a cigarette burn (surprising, since the NYC restaurant smoking ban long pre-dates Duvet’s opening).
Duvet’s staff are obviously taken with the beds. Earlier in the day, when the reservation agent called to confirm, she asked if we wanted a bed or a table. “A table,” I replied. When I arrived, the host insisted that we try a bed. I knew my friend didn’t want to eat in bed, but I said I’d give it a whirl. It felt funny, and while I probably wouldn’t mind snacking in one of their beds, I don’t think I’d enjoy it for a full-scale meal. Trays are available, but the balancing act could be awkward. When the server comes by to take your order, he actually gets onto the bed with you. There’s plenty of room, of course, but it seems wacky.
The cuisine is described as “Modern American with global influences.” One of those influences is Japanese. Flights of sushi, sashimi, and hand rolls are available at $55, $85, or $125. I started more modestly with the Spicy Yellowtail Roll ($14), which was competently executed. My friend had no joy with the Salmon Ceviche ($9), which she found mediocre and did not finish.
For the main course, we both had the Peking Duck ($26), which comes with “sweet and sour” cherries. We didn’t detect any Peking or sweet and sour in the dish, but it was a modestly enjoyable performance.
Duvet is more about a sexy vibe than fine dining. You won’t eat badly, but you won’t eat memorably either.
Duvet (45 W. 21st St. between Fifth & Sixth Avenues, Chelsea)
Food: okay, but nothing special