It isn’t often that a restaurant experience hits every note. That may not be fair to say. We don’t go out often, so there aren’t many opportunities to impress. But to ease the pain of another calendar year, we decided to hit a restaurant I’ve long been eyeing.
The Odd Duck began as a food trailer on S. Lamar and tongues began wagging, in every sense, as it opened. Shortly after, Bryce Gilmore opened Barley Swine and his reputation swelled along with the crowds. Since I am not one for crowds these days, I waited. And waited. But the lines never seemed to wane.
The same can be said for the reincarnation of Odd Duck in a brick and mortar, not far from its original location. Chatting with Jason James between courses, it seems there is no end in sight. From the moment we stepped in the restaurant, it was bustling. During our dinner, it only slowed slightly. James shared that, since they opened at the end of 2013, they haven’t seen the typical slow-down. It is easy to see why.
The decor reflects the personality of the food. And yes, this food has a personality. Comfortable, honest, eclectic. Take what could be common ingredients and turn them into something dazzling. A pop of color on a bed of comfort. A little heat to make sure you are paying attention. Details with ease.
We started with a cocktail. I’m not always one for bourbon but the addition of Lillet was too tempting. Add some black pepper bitters and amaro and you will also remember the “Alamo.” For appetizers we had the ceviche and pretzels. It is a good thing there were only three. Homemade ham and cheese pretzel sticks with a mug of mustard bechamel. Talk about comfort.
Jason helped us pick a wine that would pair well with our other dishes which was not an easy task. The Cuvee Valentin Carignan/Grenache blend fit the bill. A great balance of tannins and acid, black fruit and spice without being too heavy. I will be looking for this one.
We moved onto the spiced butternut squash with yogurt, chimichurri, nicoise, and wild rice. Super yum. When I asked Jason if there was a dish we should have ordered, he said he had it taken care of. It was our favorite of the evening. A soft cooked duck egg with oyster and shitake mushroooms, pickled squash and hazelnuts. This dish hit every note. Decadence, crunch, acid. Delicious.
We moved on to the Goat confit with coriander gordita and the Cavatelli housemade ricotta, mushrooms, walnuts and apple. They were both delicious but we agreed that the goat came out slightly ahead.
How do you cleanse your palate when the canvas is so colorful and diverse? Kaffir Lime panna cotta and watermelon granita. Creamy comfort with bright fruity fun.
Locally farmed fare, creativity in spades, a festive approach and efficient service. The flavors and textures played off each other in each dish. The same could be said for the staff. What more could you ask for in a dining experience? When my husband made the reservation, they asked about food allergies. When we were seated, our super-enthusiastic server knew about the allergy and pointed out anything to avoid. As we finished our meal, we nibbled on the largest fortune cookie I have ever seen. Inside was the following fortune:
“Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional. Have fun and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!.”
From the moment we entered, we felt seen, welcomed, and like each course brought a new adventure. When the front of the house is as seamless and inspiring as the food, you have a recipe for success. Thank you, Odd Duck, for making “growing old” something to celebrate.