Monday, January 21, 2008

blue duck tavern

It's probably fair to preface my first crack at a restaurant review by admitting that I went into the experience completely biased and giddy. As I have mentioned, the night in question, Saturday, was the first non-pregnant date night for me and my wife, so I don't believe anything could have spoiled it. We could have been gang fucked by flyblown wildebeests and still called the date a success. That said, I will try my best to be objective on the topic of Blue Duck Tavern.

My wife, whose blog will surely surpass mine in terms of substance and matter into which one might sink teeth, suggested that we do "he said, she said" reviews on the restaurant. Since I'm grazing these days for new material to compliment the banal diatribes on my so called life, I snapped up her proposal.

The usual suspects -- atmosphere, bar, food, service, and bathrooms -- will stand trial in this case.

Atmosphere

Sexy and rustic. Hard to imagine those two words used together to describe a venue, yes? Well somehow Blue Duck pulls it off, and nicely. The bar is sexy and modern while the dining room is warm and cozy. I know it sounds like opposite ends of the spectrum, but when you stroll from the bar to the dining room, the transition is seamless.


The only aesthetic that's sort of hard on the eyes is the uniform worn by servers and bartenders: over sized black suit with a dark t-shirt underneath. The Miami Vice vibe didn't fit, but I won't hold it against them.

Bar

I really dig hideout bars and lounges in hotels around town, and this is definitely one I plan to hit again and again. As the hostess led us the bar, I kicked myself for taking this long to try the place out, and this was before I even sipped a drink or tasted a bite. The bartender greeted us with a warm smile and made one of the most balanced martinis I've had in a long time. She also recommended some great cheeses, the names of which completely escape me, and paired a nice Steele Chardonnay Cuvee to compliment them.

Typically my wife and I like to have dinner at the bar of a great restaurant. Wonderful service is a fleeting glance away since the bartender is right there, and you never have the feeling that you're being hurried. You also can order food at random and not in the standard starter, entree, dessert format. Not to mention, if you go enough times or make good conversation with a bartender, you're more than likely to catch a free drink. It never hurts to know a handful of bartenders around town. In this case, however, we decided to try the dining room so we could get the full experience. But make no mistake, we'll be back at that bar sooner than later.

Food

By the time we were seated at a table, I was buzzed and hungry. In my experience, too much sauce before dinner can spoil the whole affair and leave you stuffing your face without even tasting the $30 entree you ordered. I was not that guy that evening. A quick perusal of the menu stirred butterflies in my stomach and sort of sobered me up anyway. It didn't take us too long to order:

Wifey order the New York Strip, which you could probably cut with a plastic spoon. Everything about it had me dancing in my chair. Still, I think I ordered better by going with the braised barbecue beef "long rib." Honestly, I find myself thinking about it a few days later. The tender meat fell off the bone, and the barbecue sauce marinade found me chewing each bit slowly and deliberately. My wife tells me to slow down all the time, but it took the "long rib" to get me on board with that concept. So damn good.

We ordered finger sized steak fries and creamed spinach as well, but they were completely overshadowed by the red meat gems. Don't get me wrong -- the sides work and I recommend giving them their day in the sun. I will say that I could not suppress my immature perspective of the sexual nuances in the menu: beef "long rib" and finger sized fries? I know, grow up, right?

I can't address the dessert menu since we had no room for it. Maybe next time...

Service

Blue Duck also does breakfast. I learned this when the manager told me I was a no-show at 7:45 that morning. Apparently I didn't pay enough attention when dialing us in on Opentable. She told me not to worry and scored us a table at 8pm and was very graceful about everything.

As I mentioned, the bartender was friendly and owns her domain at the bar.

Our server was just okay. When my wife was kicking around a bottle in the $50 range, he made some comment, which was clearly audible to the other tables in our row, to the effect of "if you're thinking of a cheap bottle, I suggest..." On top of it, he looked to be in his mid-20s and swimming in his dad's cheap black suit. In other words, he was hard to take seriously, so we pretty much blew him off most of the night. Like I said, wildebeests...

Over all, the service didn't blow me away, but it won't keep me away either.

Bathrooms

Some people, myself included, look at bathrooms as multi-dimensional. In other words, they can be so much more than a place to relieve yourself and wash your hands. The graffiti on the wall in this bathroom reads: illicit activity encouraged. Enough said.

On our way home we decided to stop at Buck's Fishing & Camping, a few blocks from our house, for a Macallan 12 year. I so missed drinking Scotch with my wife. As we sipped our drinks and basked in the glow of a truly amazing food and wine buzz, we decided that Blue Duck has entered our top 10 and absolutely falls onto our short list of places to visit again.

2 comments:

Rye said...

I've seen that before. What you mention about slowing down with your meals, especially for people with children. Another recent father I know has inhaled whole meals in under ten minutes in order to get back to minding the child so his wife can do the same in turn.

Gnashing a grilled cheese while standing at the kitchen sink and trying to wipe whatever that blue stuff is from Jack's fingers will happen more often than a good sit-down dinner. Just remember to mentally separate the two so you enjoy the one as much as the other.

We set out to have two-hour dinners from the time we sit until we pay the bill. That can also include bar time if dessert is going to be of the single-malt variety with a side of tobacco. We've even had to let our waiter in on the deal so he doesn't feel the need to hover around every 10 minutes. Not good for places that turn tables too fast.

The only time that plan kicked us in the ass was our dinner at Zola when the woman across from us was throwing a fit about her 8 year old's birthday. We, and the wait staff, were looking for a janitor's closet to stuff her in. Being above the Spy Museum, perhaps tying her up in the trunk of the Trabant for a trip across Checkpoint Charlie would have suited the moment. Still worth a funny story, and the meal was good.

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