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Posted at 3:08 PM ET, 06/23/2006

That's Just Ducky

By Erin

Round these transient parts, it's a standard query to ask where people are from. And now you can play the same cocktail party game with your dining companion's meal. At the Blue Duck Tavern, the restaurant opening tonight in the newly renovated Park Hyatt, the menu lists the origin of almost every dish. "Oh, your salad comes from the Tuscarora Co-Op? My galantine hails from Maple Leaf Farms."

For fans of Melrose, farm-fresh fare and/or outdoor dining, this has been a long time coming. I was initially skeptical about the concept of fine dining in a tavern. Turns out the joke was on me: The restaurant is open and pleasant with good lighting and a very minimalist clean feel. The space tempted me from the get-go with its open pastry pantry and kitchen. Diners have an open view of the kitchen's custom Molteni range, which is already the source of awe and conversation among local foodies. I made a mental note to save room for dessert when I walked by the pastry pantry and noticed the pastry chef intently hand-churning ice cream.

The menu, under the direction of Chef Brian McBride from Melrose, is broken down by primary ingredient. The food is served family-style and arrives in gleaming silver pans set in the middle of the table. Sides, like the triple-cooked steak fries, are served in silver measuring cups. Most entrees run around $20, save for the mammoth bone-in rib eye steak for two, which will run you $80. Sides are generally $7.

The ahi tuna tartar and baked clams were favorite starters for me. The showiest starter, the crusted marrowbone, got rave reviews from my dining companions. For the entrees, the "angry" trout with pears and hazelnuts is one of the most amusing on the menu. The fish is deboned and its tail pulled around and through its mouth to give it a twisted, "angry" look. Also, the roasted duck -- from Four Story Hill Farm, which also sells to Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and French Laundry in Napa -- is so tender that it melted in my mouth. Though it's a splurge, the steak, from the Kentucky-based Creekstone Farm, is a dynamite cut of meat that could easily serve four people.

With all of that food, it's a miracle that I made it to dessert, but that pastry pantry left a strong impression. Scoops of the vanilla bean ice cream arrive in a clear ice bucket, inviting diners to help themselves. (I went back for seconds ... and thirds.) It's particularly wonderful when heaped onto the gooey bourbon-flamed chocolate cake, a dish I've been dreaming about since my dinner. If you cannot make room for dessert, take advantage of the tea menu, which offers leaves imported from around the world.

The restaurant started accepting a limited number of diners last Friday, saving its full opening for today. So, wherever they're from, diners excited about wholesome, natural fare have a delightful new destination.


By Erin  | June 23, 2006; 3:08 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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