Blue Duck Tavern

This is another piece I wrote in 2006. I now remember why I never launched a food blog. I got pregnant, and that led to some interesting eating and low energy. And then I got pregnant again, which led to some bizarre eating and a complete lack of energy. Two kids later, I think I'm back to my old self.

This piece is about Blue Duck Tavern, which is located at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC. I've been back there several times and enjoy it, but am satisfied by only a few dishes on the menu. I plan on going back and have yet to try the tea cellar.

I had lunch today at Blue Duck Tavern, which is located at the Park Hyatt on 24th and M Streets, NW. I know: hotel restaurant. They're tricky, but I've always been open to them and rarely have I been disappointed. After all, if you have a big meal and you're tired, you're not too far away from a bed.

The Park Hyatt has undergone renovations and I approve of each and every one. The hotel, as well as the restaurant, is minimally decorated. Lots of neutral colors, glass dividing spaces instead of walls, and lots of space: nothing is crowded. I also found the staff to be friendly and knowledgeable.

I arrived at the restaurant and sought out my friend Tom, who warned me he was in shorts -- August in Washington will bring out the most relaxed behavior in us all. I wound my way through the restaurant and found him seated in the corner in the back. Unacceptable. We asked the waiter to move us by the kitchen and he complied.

The kitchen is open, as restaurant kitchens seem to be more and more these days. It was really lovely. The French stove was massive and covered on top with stacks of frying pans. The kitchen staff and the chef were moving deliberately, preparing dishes, bringing them to a central station, where after last minute touches were made, the food was sent off on a silver tray lined in white linen. I noticed a bowl of steak frites and made a mental note to order them. When given the opportunity to enjoy frites and mayonnaise, I don't pass it up.

I had a hankering for champagne so the first order of business was to order some bubbly. It's hard to find good champagne by the glass so I was excited when the waiter told me he had Pol Roger by the glass; I love Pol Roger. The cost was $16 for the glass, which is about half and a bit more of what a full bottle costs. Tom had a glass of red wine.

I was irritated that the music was so loud and had to ask the waiter to repeat himself because I could not hear him. Is it too much to ask for some peace and quite while I'm eating? Is the restaurant attacking my senses in order to divert my attention from the food?

The menu was not massive, for which I was grateful. One needs choices, but not so many. The waiter had explained to us that the idea behind the serving style was to share the food. To start, Tom and I shared soft-shelled crab fried in batter alongside a remoulade. Delicious. We also shared the steak frites (divine -- he with mustard, I with mayonnaise). He ordered leeks, which I did not eat but he seemed to enjoy. I don't care for leeks (but do enjoy leek soup) and these leeks looked a little droopy and buttery, but not in a good way.

For the main course, I ordered trout with bacon. I had expected a disguised trout but received a trout with it's head still intact. Tom was kind enough to do the dirty work and chop off the head and tail. It was good but we both agreed (because we shared) it did not make any statements. It was tender and I wanted very much to taste the bacon but did not. It was either not strong enough or had been subdued in the cooking.

Tom ordered grits with chanterelle mushrooms and fava beans. The grits were so creamy. They were not stick-to-your-stomach grits; they were simply perfect: flowy but not too flowy.

For dessert we ordered the apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I was assured the apple pie was warm but in fact it was not. I decided not to make a fuss. Despite it not being warm, it was fabulous. It was of substantial size and therefore perfect for two. Tom asked for an after-dinner-drink and was brought a small but full glass of a Muscat-like beverage.

In addition to the food and great view of the kitchen, Tom and I also enjoyed the people-watching, which consisted mostly of Washington-business-types and some out-of-towners probably staying at the hotel. There was a man who appeared to be in his 70s with a significantly younger woman, who was quite elegant. We pondered their relationship for a bit but decided they were father and daughter.

We left the restaurant through the hotel lobby and explored the tea cellar, which was a peaceful space. There are some teas in store that are well over $100. A woman stacking glasses in the tea cellar told us that earlier in the day a tea humidor had been delivered. I made a mental note to return for tea.

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