Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Blue Duck Tavern Lunch Review

Shenandoah Dry-Aged Hamburger with Fries

You know it's love, when you can't stand to be apart for too long. That's the feeling one gets with Blue Duck Tavern at the Park Hyatt Hotel. I couldn't last 10 days between visits, succumbing to my desire for BDT's Shenandoah Dry-Aged Hamburger with Fries... a $22 burger that's worth almost twice the price. If you've been singing the blues since Palena closed its doors, prepare to be blown away by a burger that actually lives up to the hype. If price is no object, Blue Duck Tavern actually leaps past Bourbon Steak (no small accomplishment) for the unofficial title of DC's Best Burger.

It's hard not to swoon over this afternoon's full dining experience. It began with the perfect table overlooking 24th Street, NW; and continued under the watchful eye of server extraordinaire André. Bread and butter to start; and three cheers for providing a generous knob of salty, softened butter. I'm all about the tiny details, and great bread makes for an even better beginning. It's a shame I could only have one slice. You can blame that on my ambitious order of a main, starter and vegetable: Who knows when I'll be able to return (this can't become a weekly habit, can it?) so I simply had to try two of BDT's most-talked about openers... Fried Green Tomatoes and Jumbo Lump Crab Cake.

Fried Green Tomatoes

As far as value goes, the Fried Green Tomatoes are an absolute steal at just $8. Three scrumptious patties, topped with basil and chives over a to-die-for tomato chutney. Absolutely delicious. Each bite outdoes the one before it; and before you know it, you're telling everyone you know about them. I wouldn't dream of not ordering them on each return visit.

From there, it was on to BDT's Jumbo Lump Crab Cake starter ($16.) Served in the pan with fresh Frisée and dressed in a delightful lemon-caper vinaigrette, you'll swear you're in Baltimore. The crab is impossibly tender, and the addition of capers and pickle relish take it straight to the next level. Did I mention it's tender? Yum.

Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Starter

I almost forgot to mention that BDT offers Fever-Tree Ginger Ale, which... if you've never had it, is the absolute best, purest (they use three different ginger oils) ginger ale in the world. You'll never look at Canada Dry the same way again. As you might expect, refills are provided instantly (as well as water) and all aspects of superior customer service are strictly adhered to. In fact, I'm still trying to figure out how André slipped a clean knife under my arm at one point, without me knowing it. The entire staff dances around the spacious dining area with the stealth of a ninja... You want for nothing; but you often don't even notice all the little things they do, to make your meal so special. Couple that with near-perfect noise levels (an improvement over my last visit) and you have a truly ideal dining atmosphere.

Without further adieu, let me address the hamburger & fries. The fries are downright incredible... thick, crispy and golden brown (almost well done.) They're cooked in duck fat, and are superbly seasoned. Meanwhile, the burger itself is visibly juicy, cooked MEDIUM as requested and equally well-seasoned. It's served with a garlic aioli and ketchup on the side; but as I told André... a good burger doesn't need all that. Ditto for cheese, although you get a choice of Aged Cheddar or Maytag Blue Cheese. The whole wheat bun stands out on its own (few buns do) and fits the meat perfectly: It's also nice & soft, with a quick turn on the grill for good measure. The dressings (lettuce, tomato and onion) are very fresh; and the giant pickle (served on the side) is salty, juicy and delicious. I couldn't find a single fault... not just in the burger, but rather the entire meal (all of which, I was able to devour within an hour's time.) Timing on each dish was dead-on, and all plates were removed discreetly and promptly.

Bread & Butter

Blue Duck Tavern has a reputation for greatness, and today's visit clearly confirmed what others have been saying for a while. It's not inexpensive, but three to four visits a year is worth saving up for. Whether or not I can resist coming back more often, remains to be seen. If repeat visits are this good, that's next to impossible.