Sunday, March 7, 2010

blue duck tavern

Getting in the door at Blue Duck Tavern was, quite literally, the hard part. First, we were stymied by a less-than-direct route (note, GPS will take you thirty-odd blocks out of your way) that left us locating the small valet stand, with the aid of the hostess on the line, just in time for our reservation. Then, we came across the doors, oh the glorious doors….a pair of two-story black behemoths made for a medieval castle. After the rather silly doors, I anticipated an equally silly room not at all indicative of a “tavern”. Somehow, though, the main dining room with floor to ceiling glass walls of the same height as the doors evoked a cozy, inviting feel. Perhaps the open kitchen and the marble apple pie-making station (yes, you read that right) are part of the charm. 

The extensive wine list includes two attributes that are sure to always please me, one, a generous selection of vintages by the glass, and two, a selection of Pinots from the Willamette Valley. A tablemate noted, however, the significant upcharge on some of the bottles (even when compared with other restaurants). The menu served to balance out the wine prices though.  The prices were quite reasonable for the caliber of reputation enjoyed by BDT.  Service, both informative and friendly, is also a plus. 

For appetizers, our table split the bone marrow served with sea salt and toasted country bread, as well as a simple green salad. The bone marrow, described as an extremely rich butter, impressed me as a bit dull.  Even the sea salt failed to compensate for the lack of flavor. The main entrees were also generally symptomatic of the lack of flavor theme.  The pheasant, prepared in a salt dough, was tender and moist. But, even when topped with the red wine reduction, the bird was tasteless. Our tablemates reported that the duck trio (the typical breast, sausage, and confit) and venison were good, but the reviews were less than enthusiastic.

The sides, however, proved a spotlight for the kitchen. The meaty triple fries and pumpkin gratin were both scrumptious. The beets with goat cheese, while not the most innovative of dishes, were also tasty.  But don’t let me gloss over the gratin, topped with hazelnuts and fried sage, which should definitely be part of any meal at BDT.  Now, moving on to dessert, did you forget the aforementioned apple pie-making station? Yeah, neither did we. The apple pie(s) – two were the perfect size for our foursome – were perfection. Both the buttery bottom crust and melt-in-your-mouth apples were delicious, but the crumbly top crust was heaven. We left for the evening with perfectly full and happy bellies. Though there were both high and low notes through the meal, the apple pie meant that BDT left us with a joyful crescendo.

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