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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review ~ Blue Duck Tavern / 24th & M Sts., NW

Just Ducky. If as a foodie you have eaten around the DC metro area for awhile, one thing you know for sure: chefs come and chefs go, and sometimes they move so far away that sitting down to one of their meals won’t happen. At least, not easily.

That has happened at the Park Hyatt Hotel’s famous Blue Duck Tavern restaurant, a high-end destination that features local, farm-fresh ingredients and extremely talented kitchen staff. Their renowned French chef, Sebastien Archambault, moved recently to a sister restaurant in New York — so farewell.

But welcome new, exciting, and talented executive chef Ryan LaRoche and his newly elevated chef de cuisine, Brad Deboy. LaRoche has garnered so much attention because of his achievements and culinary skills that in 2012 he was named “one of the top 5 chefs to watch,” according to Esquire magazine.

What the duo brings to the Blue Duck kitchens is, of course, the farm-fresh basics, but assembling them has taken on a whole new energy. Take, for example, elements of the revised fall dinner menu, starting with a cauliflower and apple salad, enlivened with candied pecans and a mulled cider vinaigrette. Even the faint-hearted and squeamish eaters will put thumbs up to the oven-roasted bone marrow (needs to be spooned out of the big, chunky bones) and the crispy-crunchy sweetbreads.

Not sugary rolls, sweetbreads for the uninitiated are the organ meats from the thymus and pancreas glands, and in most cases, chefs opt to use those from lamb or veal. How these are presented at Blue Duck are memorable with a thin pancake and an accent of maple sugar. But perhaps the champion of appetizers is the smoked trout rillettes, which is basically a pâté made of trout meat and served with tiny pickles and house bread.

Speaking of bread, you can sample their baskets of freshly made bread with ramekins of sweet butter, tasty ways to tamp down hunger while waiting for one of your main course choices — assuming the menu hasn’t changed — roasted squab with a brioche-foie gras stuffing, roasted duck, tilefish with leek jam, lump crab cakes, and a stunning, full-blown, over-the-top roasted pork rack with a bed of braised yet crunchy collard greens. The pork ribs are juicy and meaty, and well-seasoned as you find with each bite. Perfect partners for the pork is an order of creamy mashed potatoes and the fried Brussels sprouts with bits of bacon and hints of mustard. Out of this world.

Do you have room for dessert? If so, ask about the Elsa Mae cow’s milk cheese, the assorted made-in-house ice creams (the fig and black tea combo is divine), or settle for the famed apple pie, the restaurant’s signature dessert. What more could you ask for?

Blue Duck Tavern / Open daily for breakfast, lunch & dinner; brunch, Sat. & Sun. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, brunch Sat.-Sun. Dinner entrée prices, $20-$36. (202) 419-6755. blueducktavern.com.

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.