Thursday, May 16, 2013

FOOD REVIEW: Blue Duck Tavern (Washington, DC)

the striking interior of the Blue Duck Tavern
shaved brussels sprouts salad with walnuts and parmesan cheese; $11

sauteed wild mushrooms with olive oil croutons, garlic and parsley; $10
wood oven-roasted Maine scallops with
spring vegetables, sea beans, bacon; $24
passion fruit tart with toasted meringue; $9

The Blue Duck Tavern has been on my list of places to eat for quite awhile. I actually had reservations set with my regular dining companions that I visited Fiola de Fabio Trabocchi and Corduroy with but that outing got cancelled due to work pressures. Happily, I was able to find a different group of people who were interested in checking out this 2013 Washingtonian Top 10 Restaurant of the Year (it's at #8).

Blue Duck Tavern is in the West End section of D.C., pretty close to Foggy Bottom and thus in the environs of Georgetown. It's actually in the same building as the opulent Park Hyatt Washington (rack rate on rooms is over $500 per night). However, the moment one walks in you're struck by the attractive, sleek architecture which says this place is clearly not your average downstairs hotel restaurant.

We went on a surprisingly cool, blistery day in Spring so we didn't sit outside. At 5:30pm on a Wednesday the restaurant was happily almost completely empty and we were quickly seated and some excellent bread was brought to the table.

I ordered the brussels sprout salad (primarily because I love walnuts and parmesan even though I hate brussel sprouts) on the recommendation of our waitress. The inclusion of raw brussels sprouts into salads is becoming quite a "thing" in high end restaurants. I have seen it on the menu on at least three places I have eaten at in the last month. It has a very distinctive texture and, happily, the sour aftertaste of cooked brussels sprouts is minimal when it is raw. My tablemate ordered the "Swiss chard and onion tart with goat cheese and bitter greens" ($12). All of these things sound like ingredients I would avoid, but I had a bite and it turns out that it's really an absolutely scrumptious quiche! (Sometimes menu writers obfuscate more than they entice.) If/when I return to Blue Duck Tavern I would choose that as my appetizer next time.

Since I am avoiding my intake of red meat I ordered the scallops, but I was sorely tempted to try one of the beef dishes on the menu, all of which sounded delicious. My other tablemate ordered the "Roasted Muscovy Duck Breast with Crispy Leg Confit and Nettle Relish" ($45) and happily was unable to finish it so I got more than just a bite. The nettle relish is sweet and finger-lickin' good! The duck was sublime, as one would expect.

 I also ordered the sauteed mushrooms, mostly for me but also to share with the table. I was glad that I did because everything at Blue Duck Tavern comes a la carte (that means by itself, priced separately, in a gleaming stainless steel dish). Neither of the proteins (i.e. duck or scallops) came with a substantial amount of accoutrements (either vegetables or starch) so the mushrooms were a good choice. And they were also delicious! Frankly none of the starches (listed as "Potatoes and Grains" on the menu) looked appealing to me, except for the "Hand cut BDT Triple Fries" and those sounded too good, if you know what I mean. Summer is coming!

One plus for Blue Duck Tavern is that they had a good selection of non-alcoholic beverages, and I had a very delicious "mocktail."

For dessert I committed an unforced error by not ordering the apple pie (didn't do enough research beforehand) and had the intriguing sounding passion fruit tart despite the meringue (which I never like--it's too sweet for my taste). Passionfruit is both extremely sweet and also extremely tart and combined with the toasted meringue the dessert was too monotonic in flavor (it basically screams dietetic shock). It's missing a contrapuntal element, maybe some roasted almonds or something very nutty (macadamias?).

All in all it was a very pleasant dining experience, although I would note by the time we left (around 7:30) the place was packed and the noise level was just a bit above comfortable for me.
I would definitely come back, on a warm day and sit outside at an early evening time and this time order the apple pie!
Location: 1201 24th St NW, Washington, DC 20037.
Contact: 202-419-6755.
Visit: April 17, 2013.

FOOD: A+. 

OVERALL: A/A- (3.83/4.0)

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