Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Odd Duck

Last weekend I made my first visit to Odd Duck, the trailer turned restaurant (after a couple year hiatus) from Bryce Gilmore. This sister restaurant to Barley Swine is about a half mile north on South Lamar, directly across from the construction pit where the Alamo Drafthouse will reopen. Odd Duck is a less-formal setting than Barley Swine, and seats probably four times as many customers when you include the spacious outdoor patio. We had no problems making a Sunday reservation online just two days prior, and while the restaurant was busy, they were no where near capacity. I received a phone call from the restaurant on Sunday to confirm the reservation; they also inquired about any dietary restrictions (none) and let me know most of the seating was at communal tables (ok). Upon our arrival, the hostess sat us outside on the patio (complete with drop-down siding and overhead heaters), which was away from the hubbub of activity that encircled the bar area, and thus a little quieter. And we didn't have to share a table, though it is sometimes fun to do so.

My dinner companion and I were warmly greeted by our waiter Bruno, who proceeded to explain the menu. They encourage sharing of dishes, and about three dishes per person. You can see from the pictures they use a mish-mash of vintage dishware, which doesn't always make the food stand out when photographing the plates, but it's a creative touch nonetheless. We both ordered beers, and I thought my Live Oak Hefeweizen went well with our food choices.

We started with the Parker House rolls with shredded meat from the pig's head, mixed with some seasonings. I could have eaten an entire meal of these and been perfectly happy! Whoever oversees Odd Duck's breads is doing a marvelous job. Warm, buttery, soft, tender, and filled with a well-balanced meat mixture. Do not miss out!
Next up were the mustard seed tater tots with pimento cheese. I didn't really find many mustard seeds in the potato cubes, but maybe they're ground up. It seems that these were mashed potatoes, spread thinly in a pan, left to cool and harden before being scored into little squares, and then fried. Devoid of any trace of grease, which was nice. But I sort of missed the texture of little potato pieces found in a traditional tot. The pimento cheese has great cheesy flavor, but it's whipped to the state of more of a mousse than a "regular" cheese spread, and there was much more pimento to go around than there were tots. Bread would have been handy to scoop up the mousse. While the texture of the pimento may not have been my most favorite, they get points for modernizing and putting their own spin on traditional fare.
There were two fish options on the menu, and we asked our waiter's opinion. He steered us towards this, the raw cobia (a whitefish), with bacon, soy, grapefruit, and sunflower seed clusters. We both thought the dish would be more successful without the soy sauce. But while it goes with fish and with the bacon (pork belly), it didn't go with the grapefruit. Though one could also argue that the grapefruit was the item that should have been removed. All said, the individual components worked, but I didn't feel it worked together as a whole concept.
Our next plate was the carrots roasted in hay with chevre and pistachio crumbs, or what I have been calling a forest of carrots. Fun, artful presentation, different types of carrots cut in different ways, and a good amount of chevre on the bottom of the plate (though you can't really see it in this picture). The pistachio crumbs gave a really nice texture to the softened carrots. By now we realized we needed bread for the ample amount of chevre.
So remember how I said earlier whomever is doing the breads is doing a marvelous job? I had already felt that with the Parker House rolls, and then we had this: their spent grain loaf with salted, cultured butter. So glad I eat carbs! :) This warm bread was also amazing on its own, but then if you slathered some butter on a piece.... try it yourself, and I dare you not to say "oh my god!".
And speaking of carbs, this black olive pasta with braised goat, sage, and Parmesan was also a huge winner. It's a bit on the salty side (which is sort of ironic to me because I always thought the food at the Odd Duck trailer was under-salted) with the olives and Parmesan, but it all just melts in your mouth. I am guessing they braise the goat, because it was tender and juicy. Really a wonderful umami mouthful.
For dessert we picked the buttermilk pie on a peanut crust with sweet tea and celery. Celery? As far as we could tell, the only celery were the little green leaves you see for garnish. Yes, they were celery leaves, but young tender ones. I didn't object to them, but not sure they added anything to the dish. The sweet tea turned out to be a jelly-like reduction (if you can make out the brown dots on the plate) that tasted just like sweet tea. The buttermilk pie part was fine, but it didn't overly excite me. I am wondering now what made it so yellow in color...maybe there was celery puree in it, but it didn't really taste like that.
Here's a shot of the porch seating. I'd say there were about 8 - 10 picnic tables that would each hold six people comfortably. Wish I had had more of an opportunity to look around in the main dining room, but I can say the seating around the bar was pretty much entirely filled, as were the inside tables.
From the people I know who had eaten here since their December opening, pretty much everyone has had good things to say. One friend though had a horrible service experience, so I sort of kept waiting for something to happen. But I thought from the hostess to our waiter, the service was great. Bruno was knowledgeable about the menu, and while his choice of fish dish wasn't my favorite dish of the evening, I don't necessarily feel that he led us astray. He was friendly, and never gone for too long, even though we were outside. I should also add there is an emphasis on local and seasonal foods, and there's a page on their website listing their vendors/sources.

Odd Duck is a welcome addition to my South Austin neighborhood, and I am pleased to make its acquaintance. I look forward to more carb-filled meals there!


  1. Yum! Completely different menu offerings since I've been there. I want to try that goat pasta dish!

    1. It was definitely my fave! It will be fun to see what they come up with next!

  2. I went the first week they opened and loved it! Great pictures!

  3. Good review, but protip for restaurant critiques: You shouldn't really try to guess the techniques that went into those dishes because I can tell you that most of them are off the mark.

    1. Thanks, I appreciate the tip! What can you tell us about the food at Odd Duck that I may have guessed wrongly about?