Last night a colleague and I tried Deuce for dinner. On this warm evening, we chose a table outside on the patio. Most of the other diners were outdoors as well.
We shared two starters: fried calamari with lime aioli and the warm Laura Chenel goat cheese. The calamari was a huge portion, a heaping large dinner plateful of fresh and juicy-tender rings and tentacles from big squid with a light dusting of seasoned flour with aioli drizzled over. The presentation looked anemic and gloppy, but we dug in. Pretty greasy, leaving a noticeable puddle of oil on the plate, but the more drained pieces from the top of the pile were delicious. A couple lemon wedges would have been welcome to add a squeeze of acid, but none were provided, and our server didnt return for me to make this request.
The circle of goat cheese had a nice crust of bread crumbs, but wasnt heated through. Again, the presentation was odd, some round slices of cucumber and roasted red beets laid flat on the plate and interspersed with tiny leaves of lollorosso lettuce. The goat cheese was in the middle, a few yellow and red cherry tomatoes added color, and the salad was undressed leaving each of the individual flavors disparate.
My entrée was the grilled local wild salmon. I hadnt focused on the description of the prep, and might have made a different choice if Id been paying attention. The wild mushrooms with reduction, braised spinach, root vegetables and orzo seemed too wintry on this summer night. While a very thick cut, the salmon was overdone and mostly dry except for the very center core. The presentation was very fussy with deep-fried garnishes piled high on the salmon. I didnt eat much of it after our heavy and filling first course.
Our first wine was the 2000 Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay in half-bottle. There was a slight aldehydic note to the nose, lending a prematurely aged character, but it showed better on the palate. With our entrees we split a glass of 2000 Schug Carneros Pinot Noir. The light body and restrained hand with oak made it good match for our grilled fish dishes. We skipped dessert and coffee as it was near 10pm.
Would I return to Deuce? Im not sure each dish was slightly off and somewhat clumsy in appearance and taste. I might have been better off ordering the regular Tuesday night special pot roast with mashed potatoes that several other patrons seemed to enjoy. The patio was pleasant, a relaxed and quiet place to have a business discussion. If I were to come back, Id probably have a casual lunch outdoors or in the bar. The sandwiches and burgers offered at lunch or from the bar menu may be a better fit for the kitchens skills. Ill have to disagree with the NY Times 1999 review to say that this is not one of Sonomas best.