Bleu Duck Kitchen and Bar is envisioned to satisfy more than just your taste buds.
When chefs Erik Kleven and Erik Paulsen met Traci and Hunter Downs, and learned of the 115-year-old brick Conley-Maass building at 14 Fourth Street SW being renovated by the Downs, they discovered a shared desire to bring something unique to Rochester.
Kleven and Paulsen have taken over the entire first floor to create a 60-seat “New American Bistro-style” restaurant, which includes private party space.
“It’s a dining experience, not just eating,” notes Kleven.
High ceilings, walls of exposed brick, restored original glass, earthy tones, and an open kitchen combine to make this a unique setting. A “Chefs Counter,” which seats six, runs along one edge of the kitchen, separating the dining area. Presented as a five-course dinner with a beverage tasting, these special chef-chosen dinners will require advanced tickets when they begin this fall.
An 8-seat bar offers classic cocktails, small batch spirits and single estate wines. Co-owner Ansley Jones, who also owns The Doggery, serves as beverage manager and mixologist.
Kleven’s 16-year-old daughter Joely created the artwork above the bar. She has recreated classic pieces to center around blue ducks. Both the drinks and the art above the bar reflect what is coming out of the kitchen: classic dishes with a new twist.
Every level exudes quality, from the ambiance and décor to the service and food. Wait staff have been well trained under the guidance of Jennifer Becker who comes from the Rochester Golf and Country Club after 12 years as their food and beverage director. Becker oversees front of house and special events. Her standards are high, complementing those of Kleven and Paulsen who have their plates full overseeing the kitchen and hands-on doing that which they are so passionate about, namely creating unique, flavorful food.
“Each dining experience here is meant to be a new experience and to remind people of the importance of being connected to the food put on our table,” says Kleven. On the other hand, “we try to not take ourselves too seriously,” says Paulsen.
A select number of items are on the menu at any one time; three or four items each in starters and seconds, and five or six main entrees. Listings are simple with only a few core ingredients noted for each dish. Through narrative, by informed wait staff, the intent is to fully help guests understand the choices they are making. The sheer variety of dishes, over time, assures that diners will never get tired of repeatedly eating one item.
Menu items to date have included an amazing sweet corn soup. Upon first spoonful the flavors simply explode on your palate. This fresh, thick cream-based soup is presented with a drizzle of parsley oil. It is topped with a homemade biscuit, but not just any biscuit; crab imparts a unique flavor. The texture-flavor pairing, with the soup, is incredible. Commenting on the soup, one patron was overheard stating, “This is what summer should taste like.”
Among main entrees the duck breast, atop a white bean ragout with fresh summer greens, packs another outstanding set of flavors. Seafood lovers will find every bite of the peppered salmon to be simply marvelous. It is presented along with butter poached potato, Hericot verts, fresh tomato and hard-cooked egg drizzled with a Nicoise olive vinaigrette.
As new dishes are unfurled, the chefs look forward to “pushing the limit” with unusual items like pork cheeks and veal prime rib, which recently were procured from local farmers, only to each sell out the day they went on the menu.
The initial menu offerings have indeed demonstrated the cuisine creativity of the chefs. But what is with the name “Bleu Duck?” It’s like Adam Sandler said in “Billy Madison.” He drew a blue duck “because I’ve never seen a blue duck before, and to be honest…I wanted to see a blue duck.”
It’s this demonstration of creativity, the uniqueness of the setting, the food and the care taken at all levels that make dining at Bleu Duck a truly memorable experience.