5.17.12 Dinner. Odd Duck (Bay View. Milwaukee, WI)

Main dining area from seated at the bar.
One of my co-workers/friends, Renee, and I thought we'd start studying together for our certification exams as an external motivator.  Of course, we knew that food would have to be somehow involved.  I'm sure that most of you agree that food is a good motivator.   On our first study date, we chose from a list of restaurants we want to try out and Odd Duck in Bay View won.   

We arrived at Odd Duck around 7:00pm.  The hostess asked if we had a reservation, which we didn't, and offered us immediate seating at the bar for possible full food service.  We decided on taking two spots at the bar for a beverage while we waited for a table to open up.  She estimated a 30 minute wait.  Since we had time, we thought some wine would be appropriate.

Outdoor back patio.
Seated at the bar.
We sat at the bar for about 15 minutes prior to being called for our table.  This allowed us some time to take in our surroundings.  When you first walk in, you'll notice the bar on the left and the low top tables with fun blue chairs on the right.  There were two tops and other larger groups where the tables were pushed together.  The dining area itself is cozy and there is about 20 tables or so.  The tables were occupied by various groups of people, some older couples, mid 20-early 30s groups of friends but not many under 20s in these parts.  The colors are cool and light wood makes up the trim and beams where there isn't, what I believe to be, cream city brick...  but I'm not certain.  When you pass the bar, you will see the pick up window on the left.  During a bathroom break, I spied the outdoor patio in the back of the building.  There are about 8-10 tables in the back patio.  It's fenced off to allow some privacy from the business of the area.  Various works of art dress the walls and there is a fun border along the wall of the font of the space that has various animals painted in front of a city block.   And, you can't really miss the various antlers that are hung up.  I, myself, don't know the appeal that people have for antlers but, that may be the city gal in me. 

While drinking our wine, Renee chose the Syrah ($10?) while I had the Malbec ($8), we checked things out to see what we'd be in the mood for.  I noticed a bar snack list on a chalkboard right by the bar and it reminded they have a happy hour, Monday through Friday 4-6pm which includes drink deals and bar snack deals.  We all need a happy hour or two after a long day of work right? Right.  The bar snack list included various types of boiled eggs, fried pickles and other goodies.  All cost $3 for each order.  We thought it'd be cool to try one out while we waited since we were already super hungry prior to getting to the restaurant.

Beet pickled egg and curry and jalapeno egg.
Bar Treat Details: 
We decided on the beet pickled eggs. We were offered the opportunity to either get two of the same egg or a mix and match.  Of course, we picked the mix and match.  Can't pass that up.  We chose the curry and jalapeno pickled egg to accompany the beet one.  I'm not the biggest fan of curry but Renee likes it a lot and so I sucked it up and decided to be adventurous.  ($3)

Our Thoughts: 
The eggs came split in half and over a drizzle of hot sauce... tasted similar to a Tabasco brand hot sauce with a more vinegar bite to it. The presentation was simple yet beautiful.  The colors of the eggs were just striking.  Reminded me of a psychedelic Easter egg hunt... could have been due to the lighting that came through the place.  The eggs were delicious and we both agreed it was a good call to try them.  You, of course, have to like hard boiled eggs and pickled food to try it.  But, I would recommend them.  The beet was the first one I tried.  Had a little spice to it which I think came from the hot sauce but without as much sauce on it, was still spicy.  The sweetness of the beet was very subtle and was more of an aftertaste that was overpowered by the tart vinegar flavor.  The curry and jalapeno, in my opinion, wasn't nearly as spicy as the beet one.  But, like I said, may be the hot sauce.  The curry was subtle and added a nice flavor to the egg.  It was Renee's favorite.  But, she's the curry fan. 

Now let's get to the real thing.  Odd Duck's dinner menu includes small plates, large plates and meats and cheeses.  Mid dinner, we had asked our server, who was oh so friendly and what Renee and I consider the typical fun and nice Bay View persona, how often the menu is changed.  She informed us that it can change anywhere from one item to up to 5 from one day to another.  On the weekend, there are usually a lot more changes.  You can't ever really tell I guess.  We asked this because on the site the restaurant boasts that they use local ingredients.  When you do that, you have to roll with the seasons.  That always makes for a fun menu.  To me, using local means things are fresh and different.  Read more about the restaurant flare and inspiration on the site as you please.  If I go into it here, the blog will be much longer than it will already be.  God, I love talking about food.  And, on that note, let's get rolling to the good stuff.  

We both decided that sharing some small plates would be the best choice for us because it will allow us to try a bunch of different things in one sitting.  We each picked our top four.  We were all the same except for one which we then agreed upon after much deliberation (really only less than a minute).  We ordered.  The plate were brought out one plate out at a time.  Perfectly spaced out, I might add.  Here we go!  Listed in the order that they came out.  (I don't have pricing for them... the menu on the site may not have these dishes as they do change frequently).

Arugula salad with beet-horseradish puree.
Arugula salad, horseradish-beet puree, roasted beets, house goat cheese, champagne vinaigrette, garlic tuile.  

Our thoughts:
First off, what the heck is a tuile? you might ask...  If you didn't, give yourself a pat on the back.  I sure as heck learned something new.  A tuile, per wikipedia, "is a thin, crisp sweet or savory cookie or wafer made of dough or cheese."  At first glance, it's a colorful fun presentation.  This plate included both gold and red beets.  I've had them before, but noticed the differences between the two types a little more with this dish.  The gold is more firm and not as sweet as the red.  The sweetness of the beets offsets the bitter taste of the arugula quite nicely.  The vinaigrette provides a nice tart flavor and the cheese a creaminess.  I love dishes and food that are able to hit the different spots of your mouth to create a roller coaster of flavor.  Maybe the combination of my love for science and art lead to my love of food... who knows.  This was a great starter.  Light, yet flavorful.  The tuile itself was small but Renee noticed it enough to comment on it... "I don't know what that crisp thing was but it's really good."  Big flavor in a small package. 

Moroccan spiced beef tenderloin skewers.
Moroccan spiced beef tenderloin skewers with caramelized onions and a pepper/chili oil.

Our thoughts: 
Before even tasting it, the smells made my mouth water.  The serving came with three skewers and caramelized onions draped over them.  Cutting through the meat was easy enough with the provided butter knife... like cutting through butter.  The temperature at which the meat was prepared was perfect.  For as small as the cut was, you really wouldn't have to cook it long and both Renee and I thought they got it right on the dot.  There was a darker pink to the middle.  So those that like it well done, close your eyes and just try it.  I wasn't too familiar with Moroccan spices prior to this dish but I definitely tasted a prominant presence of cumin.  The caramelized onions added a sweet buttery flavor to the meat as well.  Oh, and don't forget a nice little sweep of the chili oil to give it that little kick.  But, watch out, the spice provides a delayed onset of heat that kicks you in the back of your mouth.  So, spice alert... spice wusses, don't go for the extra sweep of the oil from the plate.  Great flavor all around.  Renee and I both agreed, after we tried them all, that this was our favorite plate.  

(blurry) Grilled vegetable flat bread.
Grilled vegetable flat bread with some sort of cheese (I failed to make a note of it) and minted yogurt.

Our thoughts:
At first bite, we wished this had come before the meat.  The meat dish was a hard one to follow as it was so full bodied in it's flavor.  We both initially said it was OK.  As I continued to eat it, I liked it more with each bite.  I think it's because my mouth became further detached from the taste of the meat... sad.  But yes, the flat bread had a light vegetable flavor.  The creaminess of the cheese was the first to stick out and then later the tartness of the mint flavor lightened it up.  The flat bread crust was a little overcooked but, the crunch to the bread added a nice texture.   I liked this fact since I rarely like eating anything that's all mush.  So, not just flavor, but texture is important.  Note, this one is definitely a hearty and filling plate.

Grilled prawns, yellow jasmine rice and green curry.
Grilled prawns with yellow jasmine rice and (coconut?) green curry.

Our thoughts: 
The prawns served whole and in the shell was nice presentation.  Although, I think the head may make some nervous.  It came with two prawns served over a sauteed rectangle of yellow jasmine rice, served over the green curry.  I can't recall if it said it was a curry with coconut but it definitely had a creamy appearance and a coconut flavor to it.  The prawn itself was simply grilled allowing just the natural seafood flavor to come through.  Once dipped in the curry, you get the nice combination of flavors.  I've noticed that the curries that I've tolerated more are those that are cooked with coconut milk.  The rice had a nice texture to it since it was, what appeared to be, sauteed on both sides. It provided a little crunch here and there.  But, it may have had some curry in it as well.  I only had a few bites of it because of this.  But, Renee loved it.  Who knows, my dislike of curry could all be psychological, who knows.  I'm slowly expanding my horizons.  

Other things to consider:
-Street parking only.   Some metered and some not.
-May be a wait on Thursday nights and the weekends.  But, call ahead and see if you can make a reservation.  414-763-5881
-Service was great.  Nice bartenders, nice hostesses and nice servers (at least the one we had). 
-Casual feel to the restaurant but, may not be the most accomodating to larger groups (10+ people) during busy times.
-Option for outdoor seating.
-Their site says they provide options for "vegans, vegetarians and omnivores."
-Dinner only kind of joint (after 5pm) but also open for just beverages.
-Offers desserts, no menu for this, just verbally provided by your server.
-Oh so changing menu, so, despite a review that might be amazing, you have to go soon to make sure that option is available.  

This first visit was a good one.  They might even rank as one of my tops... but, then again, I have various lists based on categories.  But, definitely a must.  The dishes were great for people to share and try different things.  I was fortunate to go with Renee on this first round as we both had similar tastes and aren't too picky.  But then again, it got me to try out something I say I don't care for.  Who knows, I may be turning over a new leaf... we'll see.  There were so many good dishes that I wanted to try out too.  That's the one downfall to changing menu's, it might not be there the next time you go.  But, this may be a brilliant business strategy to get people to come back again, and often.  I know it's worked for me.  I almost want to go every week!  To conclude, Renee and I decided that all restaurants should have small plates as an option.  A taste here and there is great. I often like the idea "quality, not quantity." Unless, it's a situation where you're so hungry you think you could eat a whole cow.  But at Odd Duck, the large plates may provide for that.  Just food for thought... pun totally intended.  Cheers!

Odd Duck
2352 S Kinnickinnic Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207
(414) 763-5881
Kitchen: Monday - Saturday 5pm - 10pm
Bar: Monday - Thursday 3pm - 1am
Friday - Saturday 3pm - 2am

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