YEA! It’s finally here. Restaurant Week could not have come at a better time, I’ve been sick and down in the dumps, so a chance to have a three-course meal downtown is hard to resist. Tony and I studied all of the menus available, if I could have eaten everything on those menus, I would! Unfortunately, for our budget (and waistlines), we had to pick one and The Duck and Dumpling (222 S Blount St, Raleigh, NC 27601) could not be missed.
The Duck and Dumpling focuses on Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine with a fine dining twist. It definitely sets itself up for high expectations; the inside was intimate, well-lit, with nice modern touches. Ok, maybe it was a little too intimate, the dining area is smaller than I anticipated, no wonder there’s always a line out the door during the weekend! Luckily, we went on a Tuesday; with a special menu, I highly suggest that if you go this weekend, have reservations ready.
We received a complimentary amuse bouche, a delicious spoonful of chilled summer cucumber soup. It was a delicious mouthful; the texture was surprisingly smooth and creamy and the taste was light and refreshing. It almost made me rethink my choice of a starter….well, almost.
For our first course, Tony and I picked Edamame hummus and Grilled Shrimp and Pork Dumplings respectively. Tony’s hummus was a great way to start a meal, the hummus was creamy and had a bite to it. The taro root chips were a creative choice and a nice compliment to the hummus. My dumplings were tasty with a slight crisp, alternately sweet and savory. I tasted something in them that reminded me of daikon (if there are any experts out there, let me know, because I can’t put my finger on it and it’s killing me!). The dumplings came with a cabbage slaw that was creamy, light, and had a surprise hit of heat to it. Overall though, I think Tony won the first course. As much as I loved my dumplings, that hummus was tasty and used Edamame in a way I never would have thought of.
The main event: Lamb shank! For the Restaurant Week menu, The Duck and Dumpling offers a lamb shank basted in a soy-star anise sauce. WOW! I could not stop eating this, it was so good that even after finishing this large portion, when I saw a waiter bring out another lamb shank for the table next to us, I wanted to pounce on it. The lamb was so moist and tender, it reminded me of the glorious oily goodness of duck. I’ve only ever had dried out lamb, so this was a revelation.
The dish came with a side of wasabi-blue cheese mashed potatoes and asparagus. The asparagus was crisp, but the potatoes were the only off note of the whole dish. I tried to taste wasabi or maybe the blue cheese. Instead all I got was butter, which I normally love, but not when it overpowers my potatoes. At least the glass of brawny The Show cabernet I had with my meal melted away the memory of pureed butter…I mean potatoes.
Dessert wasn’t nearly as inspiring. My chocolate Kahlua “souffle” needs the quotes around its name, it seemed to have fallen pretty quickly. It was tasty, but they should have just called it a cake on the menu. I didn’t get a chance to try Tony’s Key Lime Pie, I blinked and it was gone. Tony swears a dog came out of nowhere and snatched it, so who am I to argue?
I think the best part of the night was the leisurely pace of it. We’ve had prix fixe menus at other places and it felt like they couldn’t wait to rush us through each course to turn around our table. Instead, the waitstaff was attentive (maybe a little forgetful with our drink orders), but they knew when to come and check in. It’s nice to have a meal where you feel like you can have a conversation.
Overall, this week was a great chance to get some insight of a place that I’ve always wanted to go to, but either because of price, timing, or lack of table, I’ve never been. I can honestly say if the purpose of Restaurant week is to gain exposure and introduce themselves to new customers, then The Duck and Dumpling has definitely succeeded. I hope they save some of that Edamame hummus for next time.