One of my favorite excuses to check out a new restaurant and order way too much food is Birthday Lunch. The celebrant: my friend Jin. The restaurant: Duck & Buvette in Shangri-La Mall.
Well. It’s not entirely true that this place is new to me. I’ve been once before but I was alone and only managed to try the octopus salad (loved the charred octopus with sweet and tangy pomelo and salty fried capers), truffle roasted cauliflower (simple and satisfying), and the thyme and honey macaron ice cream sandwich (I love an ice cream sandwich – subtle on the thyme and unique) and I guess that’s not half bad for a solo meal but I always felt like I never got to the main event.
So that’s what I set out to do. Because birthday! Starting with the fennel wild mushroom with shrimp (P340).
There’s a lot happening here and it’s all pretty awesome – pungent garlic, the slight tang of lemon, earthy mushrooms, and salty fried capers serving as backdrop to delicately cooked shrimp. I enjoyed every bite on crusty bread. And have you tried fried capers? I adore them brined but they’re a friggin’ revelation when fried. It’s one of my favorite things!
My friend Jin was iffy about the braised frog legs with herby breadcrumbs (P280) but I reaaaally wanted to try it. I’ve had frog stuffed with more frog meat when I was in Pampanga years ago. I remember roasting frog legs by a rice field when I was a kid living in a province in Korea. I don’t normally crave the stuff but I don’t see frog legs on the menu often and I was curious how a bistro in the city did them.
The predominant flavor here is butter. Lemon butter if you squeeze lemon all over it. The breadcrumbs were pretty soggy so it didn’t do much texturally but the herbs came through subtly. I wish I had another way to put it but it really does taste like chicken!
Anyone who’s been to Duck & Buvette sings praises about the maple candied bacon and lemon (P175) and it’s easy to see why.
This is melt-in-your-mouth meat candy. Jin absolutely fell in love with this one. The waiter said this would take about 20 minutes so we immediately placed two orders and didn’t regret it.
If it all gets too rich, a little spritz of lemon will be all you need. Aggressively tasty.
Jin loves pasta and we went with the waiter-recommended farmhouse French bean pasta (P280) which had me a little worried when I saw it because it looked bland and boring.
It was neither. Although I thought the pasta could’ve been thinner, this was really well-seasoned with garlicky olive oil and feta cheese. With still-crunchy French beans and sweet cherry tomatoes, this was one of those dishes that reminded you of the pleasures of simple food done well. I still think about this one pretty hard.
And then, the main event of main events. The D&B crispy half duck confit (P980) is their house specialty.
The duck is as crispy as it looks while still being moist inside. Duckin’-A.
The duck is under-seasoned (on purpose, I’m assuming, so you can season to taste) so don’t forget to kiss it with some salt. It’s served with whole grain mustard, red wine sauce, ratatouille duck rice, and cranberry carrots which I thought were all great with the bird. I especially enjoyed the cranberry carrots, something sweet to complement the ever so slightly game-y duck. Oh, god. I wanna go back now.
And I will. But not before I tell you about dessert. Jin is something of an affogato (P200) fiend and chose to have it for dessert but I totally forgot to snap a photo. It was simple and straightforward but Jin thought that the coffee tasted burnt. I was determined to keep it rich like a champ until the end and chose Earle’s cheesecake (P190) which the waiter brought with a candle at my secretly communicated request. (Jin looked incredibly happy. The dork.)
This is a homestyle cheesecake with Madagascar vanilla beans and organic Earl Grey tea. I love a dessert tinged with tea, I enjoy that tiny bit of astringency and tea flavor and how they both tone down the sweetness a little bit. I’m not sure what the colorful sprinkles are (they tasted like some kind of sweet crumb) but aside from its aesthetic value, I thought it was unnecessary.
It did give some texture to the soft and delicate crème bru-tart (P160) that Kring ordered. You guessed it – crème brûlée + lemon tart.
I wish the crust was sturdier and the sugar shell on top much crunchier though I’m not even sure if a sugar shell was aimed for here. This was a bit too soft and fluffy all around compared to my crème brûlée expectations but the lemon custard filling was beautiful. And it came with a small side of ice cream-mmmm!
Some half-assed window shopping and fervent milk tea-sipping followed in an effort to burn off this meal which I know wasn’t even in the neighborhood of enough but lawrd, it was all worth it.
Happy birthday, Jin! You are now a year older. And thanks to this birthday lunch, we are perhaps slightly rounder but definitely much happier.