Although the Blue Duck Tavern is not a place I am likely to visit outside of the affordable confines of Restaurant Week (yikes!), my aunt and uncle were in town helping my cousin set up her new apartment and graciously invited me to the Blue Duck for an interesting brunch.
Interesting could be the watchword for this restaurant. Walking in was like entering a scene form Stargate. I felt like I was entering the foodie temple of the Sun god. The entrance itself is a set of huge, black, double doors that a) don't look like they open, and b) have no discernible sign that they lead to the restaurant. (Leap of Faith?) Once inside, one immediately goes up and down a series of small stone steps, while sunlight floods through a wall of windows. We had seats by the kitchen, which apparently is the place to be, so one can watch the chefs as dishes are prepared and served.
If anything Anthony Bourdain writes it to be believed, having an open kitchen must be absolute hell for a chef. I was expecting a milder version of Bourdain's wild, profane kitchens or even the fast-paced world of Bill Buford, but what I got was more akin to a sedate episode of Iron Chef America. Frankly, I forgot they were there. Perhaps it is a little more exciting for dinner service, instead of a sleepy brunch, but let's be serious here, folks, we all know I was more interested in eating the food. Luckily, the food was as interesting as the ambiance.
We started with mimosas and croissants, which were excellent. The jams, cream and honey were perfect. I ordered the sour dough pancake with port poached figs and fig molasses. (!!) The tangy and gooey chunks of fig combined with the light and fruity fig molasses (oh my), balanced the denseness of the pancake, keeping it from feeling too heavy. It was a sin to leave a morsel on that plate, which was not even a plate. My giant pancake was served in an equally huge skillet. In the succinct words of my uncle: "Big? That thing is a Buick." After croissants and jams, it easily defeated me.
My one reservation about this restaurant, as I mentioned, was the price. My aunt's eggs benedict looked a little on the small side for $17. Now, I know I am not brunching at Denny's or IHOP and that the best ingredients cost a little more, but I am still going through vicarious price shock for this brunch. (Thankfully, my aunt and uncle were picking up the tab). Sure, I had a truck of a pancake, but I have to wonder if I had ordered another, smaller, dish, would I have left hungry and poor? Perhaps the added cost is a necessary offering to the Sun god. That being said, I loved my fig pancake and would be happy eating here again.