Locals don’t often care when a hotel closes for renovations, but local food lovers were distressed when the Park Hyatt in the West End closed last year for nearly a year’s worth. That’s because Brian McBride, chef at the hotel’s flagship restaurant, Melrose, was among the city’s top chefs, a first-class interpreter of Mid-Atlantic cuisine.
Now the hotel has reopened with a $24 million face lift from Tony Chi, and McBride — after spending the intervening period traveling and cooking in Zurich, Singapore and Tokyo — is back in the Park Hyatt’s kitchen.
Radically altered in both design and menu, the new venture is called Blue Duck Tavern, and perhaps the only attribute it shares with Melrose is its American focus.
Here McBride selects top local purveyors — mostly from Pennsylvania, as is indicated on the menu — and allows their meat and produce to do most of the talking.
In his travels, McBride studied cooking with wood-burning ovens. As a result, most of the menu is roasted over wood, slow-cooked or smoked over the embers, or braised.
In another intriguing twist, most of the dishes are served family style, with an eye toward sharing. Each course begins with a fresh, empty plate in front of you as the food, usually in stainless-steel casserole dishes, is placed in the center of the table.
But first it’s time for the chef’s tasting.
At other ambitious restaurants, the amuse bouche might be a high-concept enterprise — a vegetable pur