“You’re gonna pee your pants when you find out.” That’s what my friend G said across the dinner table when she found out what my girlfriend Texas had planned for my birthday. “Like, it’s perfect for you.”
My mind raced. What could possibly make me that excited? A meet-and-greet with Ryan Zimmerman? A shopping spree at a suit or board game store? Literal urination from the fear brought on by a skydiving package? No, something even more appropriate for my epicurean lifestyle: a food adventure at three of DC’s finest restaurants that serve the most interesting offal dishes. And headlining the day? A lunch at the West End’s Blue Duck Tavern.
The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema recently teased that Blue Duck had taken a great leap forward with a new chef at the helm, a level of praise that augured a great experience. For one, I already knew how attractive the dining area would be. Located inside the Park Hyatt Hotel, the restaurant’s decor blends a handsome rustic Americana with a sleek modern tinge: the large colonial midnight blue doors flanked by steel and plate glass windows; rows of mason jars of vegetables on sleek honey brown shelves; the modern chair-and-table sets that would still fit in perfectly at any Virginia country bed and breakfast.
Best yet, if you’re lucky enough to sit in the few tables in the center of the restaurant, you get the pleasure of dinner theater in the form of the open kitchen. There’s virtually no separation between you and two island prep counters and the kitchen itself, as if the chefs are doing a choreographed dance for you.
When you get to see that happen at a restaurant in such a thoughtful way, it adds to the experience. That’s what makes Blue Duck one of my favorite dining rooms: it’s high class but reserved, homey but elegant, involving but calm.
But perhaps even better is the restaurant’s commitment to the quality of its purveyors, putting the names of each farm where they get their artisanal foodstuffs right on the menu. The kind of kitchen that cares that much about its relationships with its farmers will get the sort of quality ingredients that make a great dish perfect. And oh, how they made things perfect. On this offal tour, we ordered a triumvirate of offal dishes: wood oven roasted bone marrow, seared foie gras, and glazed sweetbreads.
Each of them presented their own unique combination of amazing flavors and playful textures. The bone marrow was a beautiful blend of viscous, juicy fattiness that spread deliciously over crusty toast. The foie’s richness blended seamlessly with mushrooms and a 63-degree egg to create a full-bodied hit of velvety cream that crackled over frisee and truffle butter bread.
And the sweetbreads were milky-rich and moist, a rich and dense centerpiece to a veritable painter’s palette of flavors: the mild bitterness of fried cauliflower, the sweet of a red grape confit, the sour of purple mustard. Even our non-offal dish was fantastic: a beautiful chilled lobster salad with frisee, avocado and blood orange in a honey citrus vinaigrette.
Perfect for a classy brunch, a power lunch, and a date night. And with beautiful food to boot. If you have to venture outside the Borderstan area for the perfect meal, Blue Duck Tavern is an amazing choice.