Outstanding in Their Field
Like father, like son: Two very different restaurants reflect a lot of the same values
By Mick Vann, Fri., May 14, 2010
Odd Duck Farm to Trailer1219 S. Lamar, 695-6922
Tuesday-Saturday, 5pm until sold out
Bryce Gilmore's Odd Duck is on the east side of South Lamar at Treadwell Street, a block or so north of the big Genie Car Wash, in a culinary trailer park teamed with Austin Brevità and Gourdough's (see "Gourdough's," Jan. 15). The three food operations share a central pea-graveled dining area, with assorted chairs and tables (some with umbrellas), strings of fairy lights, and a small outbuilding for the restrooms.
Odd Duck occupies an older, wooden, burnt-orange-and-white trailer (Bryce and Jack are huge UT sports fans) with a wood-burning grill inside, along with all of the cooking amenities you'd expect in a small restaurant kitchen. You order at the window, and a charming waitress delivers your food on a cafeteria tray, artfully arranged and presented in cardboard boats and paper plates. It's BYO beer and wine, tax is included in the price, and credit cards are accepted.
Portions are small yet sharable and amazingly affordable for the quality of the ingredients, all of which are sourced from local producers and farmers' markets. The philosophy of Odd Duck is fresh, seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, use of the whole animal, and a market-based menu that changes daily. The flavors are rich, assertive, and balanced, the technique creative.
A pal and I (both of us decidedly on the husky side and blessed with big appetites) decided to order the entire menu and see if we were sated after we finished. We started with a nice, crunchy bruschetta topped with big chunks of sweet beet and a nicely balancing, tart goat's milk feta, crowned with a peppery arugula salad ($4). Next, we split a rich dish of poached duck egg topped with tiny spears of sweet asparagus, slivers of scallion and mushroom, and goat's milk ricotta ($6). It was delicious and needed only a light sprinkling of salt.
The drop-dead dish of the meal was a combination of tiny grilled brussels sprouts, capers, and lardoons of marinated, rabbit belly, all garnished with a shredded, nutty-tasting cheese ($4). Sounds simple, but it was a brilliant combination of tastes. We tried the grits, which were mixed with small kernels of sweet corn and cheddar cheese, topped with a poached farm egg, braised mushrooms, and steamed greens ($6). This was the one dish that we felt could have used an element to punch it up a bit, but it was still quite good.
A large grilled crouton accompanied cubes of slow-roasted pork leg topped with an exquisite sweet onion and kale slaw ($6). It could only be improved by shredding the pork, to mix better with the slaw. A mouthwatering, semiboneless, marinated, and grilled quail arrived next atop red potato cubes, bits of salumi, and a rich, garlicky aioli ($6). The crowning touch was the pork belly slider. Several thick slices of savory, succulent, and meaty pork belly sit between a grilled brioche bun, dressed with pickled onion and carrot ($6). It's a masterpiece rivaled only by the brussels sprouts.
We think the Odd Duck concept is a huge success, with Gilmore and crew turning out gorgeous and delicious kaiseki-like small plates bursting with flavor and freshness. We both were full and very satisfied, we felt the price point was fair, and food doesn't get any fresher. Now the brussels sprouts and the pork belly slider both compete for dish of the year on our list.