The name Odd Duck adequately encompasses an Austin establishment which prides itself on doing things a little differently. Not only doing things differently, such as sourcing components of their rotating menu from local farms and making the place look like it could be an extension of an actual farm, but doing them well. Sure, the designation of 'farm-to-table' has seemingly become a trendy handcuff to the new and obscure restaurants, but perhaps no establishment in the city executes this practice as well as Odd Duck.
Displaying this farm fresh concept even down to the bones of the restaurant, Odd Duck boasts an arrangement of rustic recycled objects that might be found on an old farmhouse. Above one table, a cut down ladder hangs to hoist a handful of lights with colorful light fixtures lamp. Above another table hangs a pair of massive lights, their shades made of burlap sacks which still feature the original trade emblems. Mason jars mount the tables, each playing host to a bundle of wild flowers. Floor to ceiling glass walls line the restaurant, leaving no element unexposed, yet offering a fresco feel in the dead of what is supposed to be winter in Texas.
At 5:15 sharp, a rolling black shade crawls to the floor to dim the pitch of the setting sun and provide a more comfortable tone. I arrived at the start of happy hour and, having to wait for two others to arrive, ordered a glass of wine from Bourgone, the motherland of pinot noir (Domaine Michel & Marc Rossignol 2013 - $11). Soft and seductive as Burgundy ought to be, this wine had a pleasant nose with hints of tart cherry and leather. The mouth feel offered bright fruit, which made a strong push midway before finishing clean with dark fruit and hints of spice.
As the horseshoe bar began to fill up, and my table remained otherwise empty, the server was friendly and not intrusive, returning only a few times to primarily highlight the happy hour portion of the menu. Yet, he refrained entirely from suggesting items or even explaining the restaurant's small plate concept, both of which may have enhanced this type of dining experience. So out of good faith for the kitchen, my selections came spontaneously and included the Braised Goat ($12) and Rye Toast (originally $12 - 1/2 off during happy hour).
The main components of the Braised Goat ($12) was a bed of masa, clumps of lime mayo, fresh cilantro, and most importantly a heap of shredded goat. In just slicing into the dish, we were previewed on how it would taste; soft, rich and layered. Its subtle seasoning, paired with the gaminess of the goat and texture of toasted masa, offered a full array of crisp and savory flavors. Particularly in addition to the floral and bright fruit characteristics of the pinot noir, this dish fired on all cylinders. The wine's tannins also helped clean up some of the residual richness from the goat.
In contrast, the Rye Toast offered a rich and creamy texture which reminded more of a potato salad with a twist. By including watermelon radish and fresh shrimp, the dish had some snap to it, while the avocado salad offered a soft base and fine contrast in texture. Standout flavors also included a sweet bite from the mustard seed and hints of spice from the grilled rye bread.
Time restraints (an early movie showing at Alamo) forced us out before we could tempt dessert or another glass of wine, but all together the staff remained attentive and efficient in funneling us in and out within an hour. Two separate staffers grazed our table, one to pick up the check and the other to refill our water, which lead to the assumption that some degree of team service is in practice here. I've come to believe that the practice of team service is both conducive to and indicative of the staff moral. It's fair to assume that with the restaurant's location and its appealing constant carousel of menu items, this staff is content enough to pitch a hand to create a positive experience for the customer.
With no true hiccups aside from the lack of menu guidance from our server, it's difficult to find flaws in this Austin gem.
(Items ordered - Glass of Burgundy, Rye Toast, Braised Goat)
Rating: 4 & 1/2 Avocados (out of five)
Odd Duck - 1201 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704