As a rule, I typically dislike seeing the word “upscale” used in reference to restaurants. In my experience, when people call a place “upscale,” they usually mean that it is overpriced, tries harder than necessary to embody the postmodern zeitgeist, and is likely staffed by employees who are as much part of its décor as the drapes and expect disinterested behavior bordering on rudeness to impress upon you as patron the privilege you are enjoying in having them deign to exchange substandard service for your hard-earned money.
The Blue Duck Tavern at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington D.C.’s West End neighborhood is guilty of none of these trespasses. Its décor impresses without boasting, instead leaving it to the food to do the talking where merit-worthy attributes are concerned. Having dined recently there, I am compelled and delighted to here abandon my rule with regard to the offending “u” word (as well as my previous opinion of its implications,) and share impressions gained from a pleasant experience in a decidedly elegant and upscale setting.
From the moment you pass through its 16-foot Colonial-style doors, it becomes evident that in crossing the threshold of the Blue Duck Tavern, you are stepping into an establishment that will not rest until it has earned your repeat patronage, an establishment that you’ll be praising to friends long after the final course has been served. Immaculately-attired in black, and courteous beyond all reproach, its manager, hostess and waitstaff attend their respective responsibilities with the precision of a Swiss watch’s inner mechanisms, making clear from first introduction that chief among those responsibilities is exceeding your expectations in every way.
The atmosphere is subdued by soft lighting, the tables left uncovered to exhibit the dark beauty of solid Maple wood, the kitchen open and warmed by a wood-burning oven. Executive Chef Brian McBride’s menu earns kudos for acknowledging by state and name the local growers and farmers upon whom the Blue Duck Tavern depends for the fresh ingredients used in its meals. Pleasant servers as attentive as they are helpful minister to each table in pairs and are quick with menu recommendations and answers to questions about the foods.
Offering sophistication without pretense, the Blue Duck tavern’s selections are served a la carte, a feature that lends itself well to sharing with dining companions. Among its dishes that are certain not to disappoint is a Muscovy duck breast and confit leg seasoned right down to the bone from which meat tender enough to be eaten with a spoon easily falls away. Glazed young carrots or wood oven-roasted fingerling potatoes with bone marrow are but two of a varied bounty of presentations whose flavors confirm beyond speculation that this eatery is well-deserving of having been named in 2009 as one of Bon Appétit Magazine’s “Best Restaurants for Thanksgiving,” and one of the world’s “Ten Great Hotel Restaurants” by Hotels Magazine. If my recent experience and the opinions of hotel and restaurant industry experts are any indicators, then the artists populating its kitchen and the culinary siren’s songs that they compose will continue luring appreciative palates to this garden of epicurean delights in ever-increasing droves.
Blue Duck Tavern
24th and M Streets, NW,
Washington D.C. 20037