Dining » Fat Mouth

A Rare Bird

Local restaurateurs don’t duck a reader’s question.


At the Blue Koi (see review), Cantonese-style roasted duck comes chopped and tucked into a flour wrap or heaped on top of noodles. The whole duck is marinated and slow-roasted -- in other words, it's cooked thoroughly. I don't eat my duck breast rare, but reader William Bruning prefers it that way and got his tail feathers ruffled reading my recent review of the Peppercorn Duck Club. He wrote to say that it was "essentially impossible to get a duck breast at the Peppercorn Duck Club prepared the way it should be: rare."

That sounded like culinary quackery; I called half a dozen chefs and restaurant owners to poll them on the proper preparation of duck breast, and they all echoed the sentiments of Patrick Quillec, chef and owner of Hannah Bistro and Café Provence, who has eaten duck breast rare and enjoys it but says, "I actually prefer medium rare. And so do most of our customers. Rare duck breast is too gooey, too raw. Most customers will send duck like this back to the kitchen. If a duck breast is cooked correctly, whether slowly roasted or seared, it won't be overcooked, chewy and dried-out, but always moist and flavorful."

It's all a matter of personal taste, obviously. As novelist and former restaurant owner Lou Jane Temple noted, "How can anyone suggest that there's only one way to eat any kind of meat? That's like saying you can only order your steak cooked one way."

And if raw duck turns diners on, they can certainly get it at the Peppercorn Duck Club, insists Nassy Saidian, the Hyatt Regency's food-and-beverage director. "Most of our ducks are cooked in the rotisserie, because 99.9 percent of our customers like them cooked and crispy," he says. "But if we have an uncooked breast in the kitchen, we'll certainly prepare it as the customer prefers."

Saidian wasn't ducking the issue, but he was far more interested in showing me around the Peppercorn's sibling restaurant, the newly renovated Skies at the top of the hotel. The makeover didn't quite cost a million bucks, but looks like it did. Workers ripped out the carpet and replaced it with sleek blond wood flooring, papered the walls in a shade of weathered bronze and put in new woodwork and brass-mesh wine cabinets. Saidian tossed out the tablecloths. "We want customers to feel more comfortable, less formal," he says. Chairs have been freshly upholstered in celery green. The china, silverware and heavy glassware are all new, too.

"Even the pepper mills are new," Saidian boasts.

What isn't new is the revolving restaurant's bird's-eye view of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, which from this vantage point looks much more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than it is. Especially at night, when the more obvious urban blight is enveloped in velvety darkness. But that's a conversation to have over plates of rosemary chicken or blackened tuna. Unlike its second-floor neighbor, Skies doesn't serve duck, rare or otherwise.

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