The first time I visited Duck Duck Goat was at 10:45pm on a Wednesday—the only reservation I could secure shortly after the opening (though I’ve since had better success asking for bar seats as a walk-in). It’s hard to get prime time reservations at many of Top Chef star Stephanie Izard’s restaurants (Girl and the Goat and Little Goat Diner), due to her cult-like popularity. It’s not unfounded; her restaurants are pretty to look at, with eye-catching menus and trendy facades. Duck Duck Goat boasts three dining rooms: A small intimate front room with two- and four-tops, a room that houses a bar and a back room for larger groups (outfitted with lazy Susans). Paper lanterns light the dark space and red stools line the bar, giving the restaurant an upscale feel.
Izard bills her latest concept as “reasonably authentic Chinese food,” which feels like a fair assessment. You’ll see familiar, if wanly executed, dishes like seafood fried rice ($17)—too greasy to eat with chopsticks, the only utensil provided, no matter how many ways you try to scoop it out of the bowl. Xiao long bao ($11) come five per order, and while the taste is there, these prove to be far too large to fit into your mouth resulting in a big brothy mess. At these prices—both about $5 more than variations we’ve enjoyed in Chinatown—these dishes should be fantastic.
Not everything is sub-par: Tender hongshao rao (braised pork) served with a hefty side of rice was by far, the highlight of my meals. Dessert brings a blueberry rhubarb ice dish, with blueberry and chile sorbet, rhubarb ice, corn cereal and condensed milk—interesting but all over the place, with so many textures it’s hard to discern what you’re tasting.
On the upside, service is a delight—attentive and quick with recommendations. But a nice venue and good service only get you so far—the experience can feel like putting a posh frame around dishes we’d rather be having at more affordable Chinatown spots.
On the other hand, the Duck Duck Goat walk-up window is a delight: Taiwanese beef noodle soup comes teeming with house-made egg noodles that have a great bite, the beef broth is savory with just the right hint of spice. Fried rice comes in arancini-like balls with pork sausage and bacon, perfect for lunch.
While the walk-up window is worth returning for, the dinner dishes feel like they’ve gone one step too far, using too many ingredients to compensate for what they lack in quality. If you want decent Chinese food at a premium price point, Duck Duck Goat will do, but you’ll find better (and much cheaper) renditions of these dishes if you’re willing to venture to Chinatown.
Atmosphere: Duck Duck Goat draws aesthetic inspiration from American Chinatowns, but with an upscale twist. Bright reds and seafoam green colors dominate the space, while the bar sports charming strings of lights that illuminate the darker space.
What to eat: Hongshao rao and beef slap noodles inside the restaurant. Takeout window favorites include beef soup and fried rice.
What to drink: The drink menu changes frequently, but our favorites have been the refreshing Silk Road highball with gin and the spirit-forward whiskey-based Facing West.
Where to sit: We enjoyed our time at the bar the most. Reservations will put you all over the restaurant, from a two-top up front to larger parties in the room past the bar.