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blue duck tavern

In guest on December 14, 2009 at 2:14 pm

today’s guest blogger brings his english sensibilities to french food. this is a restaurant i’ve been meaning to try, and after his review, i can’t wait!

blue duck tavern
park hyatt hotel, washington

one star: fowl; two stars: blue dog tavern; three stars: daffy duck; four stars: quack! quack! five stars: mighty duck

verdict: four stars: quack! quack!


if you arrive at the blue duck tavern, haunt of politicos from potus down, expecting something rustic and tavern-like, a surprise lies in store. the layout is modern beneath high ceilings; the bar area a gleaming labyrinth of glass and polished steel; the restaurant a minimalist configuration of wooden chairs surrounding four setting square tables. in between, an array of meticulous chefs buzzes around the open kitchen and pantry. an outside patio looks like it would be pleasant in warmer months.

service was alternately intense and absent. i say the latter only because we were left without a drinks’ menu for a few minutes. however, power-suited women were on hand to take coats, to accompany us to the bar, to the table, to the bathrooms, to anywhere we wished to alight. in the dining room itself the main waiter reminded me of peter serafinowicz’s character sctanley from the movie couples retreat: full of preening pomp. aside from strutting sctanley, however, a number of supporting cast ducked around the table cheerfully refilling water glasses, providing bread, and servicing requests.

the cocktail menu was superb; the wine list large. we enjoyed a frozen bourbon concoction, much tastier than it sounds, champagne cocktails, and a signature vesper that was everything that should be in a martini glass and nothing that should not. the only regret is that we lacked the livers to try the several sampler drinks menus on offer. a pinot noir from carmel, california was an adequate addition to the main event, the food.

“ve are known for our bone marrow.” solemnly intoned sctanley. indeed they must be, because all surrounding tables seemed to be sampling this unusual dish. we followed suit and ordered.

all the food in the blue duck tavern is sourced openly, and our split cow bones arrived all the way from marcho farms, pennsylvania. although i find this notion of terroir a little overblown in 21st century dining, it does add interest to the menu to know your meal’s antecedents. using a small spoon to extract the marrow and spread it on the accompanying country bread slices put me in mind of the movie dead poets society with its exhortation to ‘live deep and suck out all the marrow of life!’ thankfully sctanley did not request to be called o captain, my captain. novelty, however, did trump taste. the dish is rare for a reason. together with the somewhat anticlimactic accompanying crumple of sprouts, mushrooms and squash, i prepared to be disappointed. i should have kept faith.

the tavern steak, ordered medium rare, arrived looking as though it had been walked out of the kitchen still mooing. in fact, much of the apparent bloodiness was due to the accompanying cherry marmalade. it was one of the more delicious steaks i have tried in the capital. my dining partner’s organic chicken was gamey, the flavour of the meat drowning out the accompanying buttermilk and herbs. it is in places like the blue duck tavern that chefs brian mcbride and michael santoro remind us how chicken used to taste before modern farming techniques put it in every pot.

for dessert, the simply described ‘chocolate cake’ arrived at the table flaring in blue flame. it was rich. it was delicious. yes, i thought. i would return.

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  1. how eloquently delicious!!

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