Park Hyatt DC and Blue Duck Tavern Review

May 3, 2011

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Over Easter weekend, I decided to pop down to DC for an evening to see friends and enjoy the Grand Hyatt DC on a really cheap rate (review for that stay can be found here).

On Sunday evening, we were supposed to fly back on the US Airways Shuttle from DCA-LGA. I actually would have preferred to take Amtrak, but since it was Easter Sunday, those tickets were over $200 whereas our roundtrip flight was $160. I suppose I could have taken the bus, but I have a personal policy against buses and I can’t imagine how bad the traffic would have been that Sunday night driving back into NYC.

We ended up sitting on the runway for almost 3 hours, until the captain had to pull back to the gate due to the new DOT 3 hour rule. There were intense storms in NYC and DC, so I knew our chances of getting out were slim. I wished they would have made that same decision hours earlier, but I wasn’t bothered with it too much – we were in the coach bulkhead with a seat between us and I had my music and caught up on a bunch of reading.

One of the things I noticed about US Airways was the friendliness of the crews. I used to have Gold elite status with them back in 2004/2005 and I always remembered disgruntled crews that went out of their way to be surly. However, on both of my US Airways flights recently my experience was the opposite. In fact, while I was in my own world with my Bose QC15 headphones cranked up, reading Conde Nast Traveler and enjoying my iced coffee, an ebullient flight attendant dropped a special package on my lap…

Random Act of Kindness..
2 Baileys Minis and Biscoff ... What a nice surprise

I figured it would be rude not to accept such a sweet gesture, so I mixed the minis into my iced coffee, which certainly helped take the edge off of the delay. When we finally  pulled back to the gate around 9:15pm, the captain announced the flight was canceled and I immediately dialed up Hyatt and made a reservation for the Park Hyatt using my corporate rate of $260.

I’ve been meaning to check out the Park Hyatt DC for a while now, so the decision to call it a night and retreat into the lap of luxury was an easy one. It only took about 15 minutes to get from DCA to the Park Hyatt and I was impressed with the property on first sight. The lobby was welcoming and the front desk agents were extremely accommodating – they immediately recognized my Diamond status and upgraded me to a nice junior suite on the top floor. They also arranged for reservations at Blue Duck Tavern and a friendly porter carried our bags and showed us the features of our well appointed room.

Living Room
Open shower and bathtub
Bathroom with large walk-in closet, which you can't see
Living Room View from the Bedroom

After settling in, we headed down to the Blue Duck Tavern for a late Easter dinner. I’ve consistently heard great things about BDT and apparently Obama has too – he took Michelle there for their anniversary in 2009.

We didn’t arrive until close to 10pm, so the restaurant was winding down for the evening. What I really like about it is the clean, open kitchen which situated right in front of the main dining room. Being a chef must be a stressful job, so I can’t imagine doing it with all of your diners watching your every move.

Open, pristine kitchen

I decided to order the House Smoked Columbia River Sturgeon Rillette, Hackleback Caviar to start and the Orange Ale Braised Rabbit Artichoke, and Slab Bacon – I mean it was Easter after all! My partner went with the Torchon of Foie Gras Rhubarb, Strawberry House Made Brioche and the Muscovy Duck Breast Duck Leg Ragout, Huckleberries for his main. We also got sides Potato Puree with Soft Garlic and Champion Collard Greens “Low Country.”

Super rich, smokey sturgeon rillette with crisp toasted bread

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from the rillette, because frankly it’s not like I order them all the time. All I knew was that it would be a creamy spread and that’s exactly what it was. In fact, it was really, really rich and smokey, which was nice, but the portion was huge. It was basically an entire coffee mug, which must have been over 4,000 calories if consumed in total. It was good, but could have been a bit lighter and served with more caviar. I’m not a huge foie gras fan, but it was smooth and rich as one would expect.


The entrées were the highlight of the evening. I usually have rabbit in pastas/ragouts, so it was interesting to get it on the bone. Several pieces were served, including a thigh and circular, bony piece, which I couldn’t quite figure out. What I did know was that it was succulent and well-seasoned.

The duck was spectacular. Juicy and well balanced- I generally don’t like fruit with meat, but the huckleberries were not overpowering at all.

Collards and creamy potatoes

The side of collard greens was good but spicy. I mean really spicy. I have a pretty high tolerance for heat and I nearly had tears in my eyes after one of my first bites. I’ve had collards many times and I know they can sometimes have a kick, but they weren’t advertised as habanero collards, so I was a little surprised at the intensity of this kick. They were still tasty, but I just kept thinking there must be people with zero tolerance for spice who would be in pain if they had a bite. The potatoes were nice and buttery/garlicky, so it was a good balance.

Our meal was rich enough, so we passed on dessert, but I still felt stuffed heading back to the room. Good thing the elevator had a bench for the long 30 second ride up to the 12th floor!

Elevator Bench

We had to leave at 6:45am the next morning, but that didn’t stop me from taking advantage of my favorite Hyatt Diamond benefit: free breakfast. I called room service and they confirmed I could get my room service breakfast comped (sometimes hotels make you eat in the restaurant to get the Diamond benefit).

Prompt and fresh room service breakfast

Upon checkout, the agent took off breakfast and internet and we were whisked off in a cab en route to DCA. The ride at 6:45am was quick and it was interesting to see DC shrouded in humid fog as the sun rose.

Washington Monument Rising through the Haze
DCA Foggy Runway View from the US Airways Club (thanks to my Amex Platinum for giving access)

Overall, the Park Hyatt Washington DC was top-notch all around and will be my new go-to hotel in DC so long as the rates are reasonable. The Blue Duck Tavern was also a culinary treat and I want to go back again to try out their supposedly epic brunch.

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