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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review: Just Ducky = Blue Duck Tavern

For those who are hamburger-obsessed, Washington is a great place to live: numerous burger-only places are easy to find, offering a whole range of dressed-up or down patties. Even high-profile restaurants take the burger craze seriously. And one of these is the well-known Blue Duck Tavern in the Park Hyatt Hotel. With a classy French chef at the kitchen’s helm, meals here still have the regional twist —- but suddenly every meal has a slightly European edge.

Has that all-American favorite, the hamburger, gone all French on us? Not really, because executive chef Sebastian Archambault did spend part of his youth in Texas, so he is no stranger to American food passions. But his French stamp comes with the selection of Shenandoah dry-aged beef paired with your choice of Cheddar or Maytag Blue, solidly American cheeses to pair with the meaty (medium-rare, of course) patty. The patty comes with a side of steak fries, but for sheer indulgence, patrons can select a side of hand-cut, triple fries, cooked Blue Duck Fashion style, which is to say with class.

So the Blue Duck Tavern may offer one of the best hamburgers in the city — a city overflowing with hamburger indulgences — but you should keep your mind and palate open to exploring this spectacular menu. You might even make the effort to dash here for breakfast, and what’s on offer will make early risers grateful: the stars of this show are the wood-fired sticky buns, so gooey and cinnamony that you may order a trayful. Addictive.

But you can also settle on a trio of slightly less glamorous breakfast breads: croissants, pain au chocolat, and muffins. With whichever baked good, your main course options will complement each, from the fried chicken livers and short rib hash to the ubiquitous crab cakes, probably several degrees more haute than the typical cakes elsewhere. If your early morning appetite is less adventurous, you can fall back on the typical American plate: eggs, bacon, and toast.

Dinners are also special event meals, though don’t wait for an anniversary or birthday to splurge. Dictated by what is freshest seasonally, the menu undergoes subtle changes, but you can’t go wrong with an order of oysters, the pâté foie gras terrine (velvety and worth every calorie and raised eyebrow). And, of course, you can always start with butter-poached Maine lobster, so tender you probably won’t need a knife to slice the tail into pieces.

Forever an entrée favorite: the braised beef rib, but you may be drawn to the 12-hour roasted suckling pig or the wood-oven roasted Maine scallops instead. Chef Archambault has devised a menu with so many wise choices that nothing shall disappoint.

And that is true with desserts! Their apple pie, baked as a tart and served with ice cream, is a standard menu feature, and its longevity is owing to its old-fashion textures and flavors. Another favorite, but impacted by the season is the blueberry custard tart with a crunchy glaze of burnt sugar.

Another pull of this restaurant is the people-watching. While you may not spot your favorite senator or overhear political shenanigans, the well-heeled crowds who breakfast, lunch, and/or dine at the Blue Duck Tavern look very, very VIP-ish. It’s that kind of place.

Blue Duck Tavern (Park Hyatt Hotel, 24th & M Sts., NW; 202-419-6755. Hours: breakfast, daily 6:30-10:30am; lunch, Mon.-Fri. 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner, daily 5:30-10:30pm; brunch, Sat. & Sun. 11am-2:30pm. Dinner entrée price range: $20-$36.

Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.