Blue Duck Tavern

Let me start off by admitting that I’ve only been to Blue Duck Tavern once. But, that one spectacular visit has made it one my favorites.

Normally, the ambiance of a restaurant is the last thing I care about. I tend to go to restaurants based on food, and food alone. But, the décor of this restaurant is well worth the mention. Situated inside the Park Hyatt in DC., Blue Duck Tavern has a super sleek, posh, contemporary setting without being pretentious. It has mahogany wood, high ceilings, huge windows, stainless steel, and glass enclosed areas thrown into the mix. Some have compared it to a maze. It also has a beautiful open pantry and kitchen where you can see the chefs at work. All the fresh ingredients are laid out so beautifully, like a work of art. I usually find the “modern” look too edgy and uninviting , but Blue Duck Tavern is the exact opposite, being so warm and homey.

Blue Duck Tavern is classified as “American” cuisine, but it is helping to redefine the meaning of that term. The menu is so innovative and unique, consisting of seasonally farm-fresh produce, meats and seafood. It is also surprisingly affordable. We went in a group of 4, and so glad we did. Next time we’ll go with more, b/c I have a lot more to try! The menu is a la carte, meaning that it’s perfect for sharing and even recommended. That’s definitely rare at upscale restaurant restaurants. We had a wonderful family-style dinner, passing our dishes around all evening. Deciding amongst the menu’s eclectic choices is a difficult task. We finally came to a decision and ended up ordering the Spiced Pumpkin Bisque, King Crab “Mac and Cheese” Gratin, House Made Pappardelle Braised Barbecue Beef ‘Long Rib’, Roasted Duck Breast, Angry Pocono Trout, Hand Cut BDT Triple Fries, Bacon Braised Brussels Sprouts, Mashed Potatoes with Soft Garlic and Chive, and the Caramel Cheesecake.

Ok, so where to begin?. Well, to our surprise, along with bread, we also were given complimentary prosciutto. The prosciutto was sliced so thin and tasted so buttery, that I didn’t even bother to butter my bread at all. Moving on, the spiced pumpkin bisque was perfectly creamy with hints of nutmeg and ginger. There was even a little ravioli at the bottom. The crab mac and cheese is a must have for every visit. It is loaded with huge chunks of fresh meaty crab along with a wonderful cheese sauce, then perfectly browned on top. The house made papperadelle was a vegetarian option, served up with goat cheese, spinach and mushrooms. I’ve been tracking Blue Duck’s menu overtime, and they seem to always have an exciting vegetarian option, not bland vegetable sides as you often see. The papparadelle was so fresh and light tasting. The braised barbecue beef was ever so tender that it easily falls off the bone. The winner of the night was the duck breast served with a braised duck leg and medjool date puree. OMG, this dish was phenomenal. Neil steers away from duck b/c he thinks it has a “gamey” flavor, but, decided to give it a chance anyway. It was juicy, incredibly tender, and the broth is salty, sweet, and tangy. The flavor is just wonderful, with just a hint of the rich medjool dates. You don’t even have to like dates to love this dish. Also, the huge chunks of fat you normally see on duck, was non-existent. The sides were also so yummy. The fries are a fun treat to try. They are cut super thick and so soft on the inside. The brussel sprouts were the favorite side of the night…can’t go wrong with anything braised with bacon. The mashed potatoes were also great, but nothing different than any other place. The loser of the night was the angry trout. It was presented beautifully, and seared crisp, but there was quite a bit of cartilage throughout. It took away from the dish, which was otherwise very flavorful. This was the only dish that wasn’t cleaned up. Not a problem though, b/c we were in a food coma from everything else! We were all stuffed, so the guys decided not to have any dessert. My girlfriend and I couldn’t resist, so we ordered the caramel cheesecake. This is an incredibly rich and dense cheesecake. It was very tasty, but a little heavy for my taste. I prefer a lighter, creamier textured cheesecake.

The wine list is very extensive and they have some bottles in the $40 range. We got a nice bottle for $40…I think it was a Malbec, but can’t remember. Wine by the glass is at least $10 though. It may seem to be a lot, but, I noticed they were being generous with their pours, which may justify the high price.

Next time I go, I plan to try the Roasted Stuffed Quail, Braised Veal Cheeks, and Wood Fired Bone Marrow (yes, bone marrow!) I also have to have the crab mac again. Now you see why I need a bigger group?

All this about food, and I totally forgot about the service. I guess that’s because it was satisfactory. Our waiter was fine. He was attentive and friendly. He just wasn’t as knowledgeable as I would have liked. It was our first time there, so we had a lot of questions on what the popular items were, and such. He wasn’t really able to answer our questions, and simply said “everything’s popular”. Who knows…judging from the large majority of our dishes, maybe he was telling the truth?

If you decide to go, request a table near the kitchen so you can see the chefs in action. Or sit in one of the glass enclosed tables in the bar area. They looked so cool! Really, any table is fine, since they are all spaced out well for ample privacy.

This probably isn’t a place for a casual night out, but perfect for a first date, birthday, a trendy night out with friends, etc. Just be sure to go in a group and feast!

Blue Duck Tavern
24 & M Streets, Northwest
Washington, D.C 20037

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