I admit I’m partial to all things duck — Oregon Ducks, Peking duck, duck confit, roasted duck, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Daffy Duck, turducken and, with some trepidation, “Duck Dynasty.”
I’m also reminded of the first sentence of a review of a New York restaurant a number of years ago by a New York Times critic: “Le Duck was a turkey.”
Which brings us to the Warren Duck Club at Doubletree Hotel at Warren Place. Following a recent visit to the venerable fine-dining restaurant, I am confident it’s no turkey.
Years ago, Warren Duck Club was one of the top two or three destination restaurants in town for special occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries.
It has not exactly fallen on hard times since, but the combination of far more competition, inconsistencies in the kitchen and an aging clientele has slowly taken it out of the culinary spotlight.
Chef John McEachern, who was named executive chef in June, is on a mission to change all of that.
“The history of the Duck Club was a big allure for me,” McEachern said. “I know a lot of people are nostalgic about the restaurant, and I want to bring it back to its heyday.
“I left some of the old classics, but I have pretty much reworked the menu from start to finish — breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
To help attract more diners, McEachern said starting Oct. 15 the restaurant will hold wine dinners the third Thursday of each month, and beginning in October, it will stage dinner-and-movie nights the last Sunday of the month.
On our visit, we were greeted by Hamid, who served our table and later had an assist from Abe. Both are 30-year veterans of the Duck Club and know the meaning of professional service.
We opened with a shared appetizer of fried green tomatoes ($10.50). Six tomato slices that had been lightly breaded and fried showed up on a wooden plank, with pico de gallo on one end and a side of lemon-dill sauce on the other. The tomatoes were so tasty, I forgot to use the dipping sauce a couple of times.
For our entrees, we ordered a 10-ounce beef tenderloin ($44) with a side salad ($4.50) and halibut and fine herbs in parchment ($34) with a side Caesar salad ($4.50).
The 28-day aged tenderloin was all of 10 ounces, fork tender and cooked a perfect medium-rare. It came with garlic-infused grilled asparagus, roasted zucchini and wild mushroom mashed potatoes — one of the earthiest-tasting dishes one could imagine. A peppery sauce was drizzled next to the steak.
The large halibut fillet was steamed in parchment paper with fresh thyme and rosemary, coconut rice, lemon slices, a little beurre blanc sauce and julienned zucchini and carrots, allowing each item to cook in its own juices.
The rosemary made the dish highly aromatic, and the fish was mild and flaky. Hamid suggested adding a little more beurre blanc — a butter-wine sauce — which was an excellent idea.
Both salads were fresh but rather ordinary.
I was disappointed in the wine list — 23 by the glass, 34 overall — one of the weakest I’ve seen in a hotel this size. The prices were moderate, but overall, the labels were not impressive.
McEachern said other things Duck Club diners can look forward to are prime rib specials Friday nights and buffets for major holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Easter.
McEachern came to Tulsa from Austin, Texas, in 2011 to take the executive chef position at Go West Restaurant & Saloon. In 2014, he opened Sugar Britches Cafe & Bakery in downtown Sapulpa.
“Sugar Britches was coming to an end, and I just answered an ad for the Warren Duck Club position to see what happened,” he said. “It worked out well. I’ve been a chef for 20 years but never worked in a hotel before. It has been interesting and fun.”