The Thirsty Duck is all grown up, or so I’ve heard. With lots of attention focused on how it’s “new and improved,” I have to see for myself what the buzz is about.
The Duck was better known for cheap draught and excellent nachos than its somewhat minimalist, threadbare though always comfy decor. There’s been a major facelift here, adapting a more sophisticated, but still comfortable, ambience. You still climb the winding stairs and turn left, but now there are two distinct eating areas (plus the third floor deck and two private function areas).
The menu has been renovated as well (happily, the nachos are still there). Along with typical bar apps there’s a rotisserie section and a selection of “Asian imports,” among other things.
We go for lunch and try two sandwiches: Cajun chicken ($8.99) and pork loin ($8.99).
Both the chicken and pork are shredded, which makes for easy eating—there are few things as inelegant as biting into a sandwich and having an entire slice of meat come out from the bread to dangle from your lips.
The chicken is spicy, and plentiful, filling the large sourdough bun. The pork is equally good, served with sweet Oktoberfest mustard on an herbed, baguette-style bread.
Both sandwiches are served with run-of-the-mill frozen fries, cooked as best as they can be but still, a convenience product that doesn’t quite meet the sandwich standard.
I’m eager to try the rotisserie items, so we return later in the week for supper. This time we order the signature dish, spit-roasted duck ($15.99) along with a chicken and rib combo ($16.99). The menu advises that it takes 15 to 20 minutes for these items, so we decide on Cambodian gzoya ($8.99) to start. These little deep-fried dumplings are certainly the prettiest dish I’ve ever seen at a pub—the golden brown bundles surround a tower of vermicelli and fine mixed greens, and garnished with a drizzle of zingy sauce. This dish tastes as good as it looks. It would be right at home in a fine dining restaurant.
With our mains, I’m again struck by the presentation, this time for the duck plate, which holds half a duck. On one side, a stack of just-right julienned vegetables, on the other, baked apple wedges with cinnamon. A muffin cup-shaped portion of savoury dressing rounds out the plate.
In contrast, the combo plate comes with a big glob of shiny-topped mashed potato that looks like it’s been sitting under a heat lamp until a crust has formed. Trying not to judge a book by its cover, I take a bite and am pleasantly surprised. The potatoes taste fabulous. Creamy, well seasoned—these are darn fine mashed potatos.
The chicken is moist and juicy, with a sweetish, tangy sauce. Ribs are a little on the skimpy side, but the meat that is there is fantastic, slathered with a robust barbecue sauce that I’d be happy to drink by the glass.
The duck is rightly the signature dish—crispy skin over meaty, tender duck with an apple glaze. Duck lovers won’t find a better deal anywhere in town, and it’s hard to believe they are serving this for less than $20.
I’m glad to see the friendly, efficient service has not changed; both our servers were great and certainly added to our enjoyment of both dining experiences.
This renovation shows how a bar can grow up with its core clientele, and not lose sight of what makes for a good gathering place—great food, great service and great atmosphere.
The Thirsty Duck 5472 Spring Garden492-3825Sun - Wed 11am to 11:30pmThu - Sat 11am to 1am
All of Liz Feltham’s reviews gathered online: www.foodcritic.ca