5. Duck Duck Goose
A starter of roasted Japanese eggplant topped with lemon-enhanced yogurt, mint leaves and Fresno chilies. Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg
When Duck Duck Goose opened in Bethesda in April 2016, it had all the makings of a small, charming neighborhood bistro, down to the bentwood chairs, wrought-iron tables and nicely curated French-inspired menu. Its chef and owner, Ashish Alfred, has real talent, as his rendition of steak tartare—perfectly dressed and seasoned hand-cut cubes of beef tenderloin—proved. I gave the restaurant a favorable review in Bethesda Magazine’s September/October 2016 issue, but lately wondered if the quality of the food there has remained consistent, given that Alfred had opened George’s Chophouse on Cordell Avenue in Bethesda in November and is working on a Baltimore location of Duck Duck Goose. After revisiting the Norfolk Avenue location in February, I can report that the food continues to delight, especially the beef tartare, and the staff is as gracious as ever. Credit goes to chef de cuisine Carson Schneider as much as it does to Alfred.
For a cunning starter generous enough for two, try the thin and curvy Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise, roasted until tender and topped with lemon-enhanced yogurt, finely julienned mint leaves and chopped Fresno chilies. Date purée rounds out this wink to Middle Eastern flavor by adding a touch of sweetness to balance the yogurt’s tartness. Lamb Bolognese with spaghettini (thinner than regular spaghetti) has a depth of flavor that comes from the long, slow, careful cooking of that classic sauce. It’s a satisfying dish, even if I would prefer thicker noodles that aren’t prone to overcooking. An entrée of duck breast, perfectly cooked to medium as requested, spotlights the slight gaminess of the meat, nicely balanced with roasted golden beets, red beet purée, roasted and buttered panko breadcrumbs (for a bit of crunch) and a Bing cherry reduction poured tableside from a little copper saucepan.
Desserts are an afterthought here, but the majestic napoleon of flaky puff pastry, rich pastry cream and raspberries is still mighty fine.
7929 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda | 301-312-8837 | ddgbethesda.com