D&B Duck and Buvette takes the space of Cafe Provençal, the fifteen year old French restaurant in Shangri-La Plaza's main wing. Still run by the same group as the old cafe, D&B refreshes its corner of the shopping mall with its new offerings. Think of it as the younger, hip sister of Provençal: sleeker interiors, modern feel, pale wood furnishings, monochromatic patterned tiles.
The owners decided in 2013 to rebrand their space to complement the mall's new wing and general renovations, but still keeping its roots of casual French cuisine. Expect homey comfort food dishes inspired by the cooking in south of France -- rustic and casual, rather than highly sophisticated and intimidating. D&B's bakery will open in a couple of weeks, and when it does, all items on their menu featuring breads and sandwiches will be freshly baked. Chef Jacqueline Tam shares that their bakery will make their own signature wild yeast, prepared from scratch, so you can have freshly made breads, pizzas and sandwiches.
Duck and Buvette, which just turned one month recently, wants to delight and educate your palate with these two items--duck and buvette.
Duck, Duck, Choose
While we may encounter duck more commonly in Chinese cuisine, duck the French way can be 'in many ways' as well. At D&B, they have eight menu items that have duck in them, and according to the chef, they also use the duck fat in other dishes to enhance their flavor.
For small bites, there's Twice Fried Duck Fat Potatoes (P90), Crispy Potato Pavé & Salty Duck Egg (P175); Jacq's Duck Rillette (P210) which uses house cured duck, and D&B Croque Madame (P320) featuring fried duck egg. There's also D&B Duck Pie & Shaved Foie Gras (P380) that uses duck confit, a D&B Egg Sandwich (P220) using a salad of creamy organic duck and chicken egg and topped with maple candied bacon.
For mains, a big bowl of Duck Ragu Pappardelle (P380) is your duck dish of choice if you want a clean-tasting pasta meal that lets its tender shreds of the poultry shine. D&B uses freshly made pasta, and the texture of every forkful you devour makes a big difference. Their menu says that this order is meant for one, but the serving size is impressive and can be shared by two people.
Their superstar duck, though, is the D&B Crispy Half Duck Confit (P980). So famous is their rendition of the classic French dish that it's the most ordered especially on weekends, and most Instagrammed. And the moment this particular dish was served on our table and we had our first forkful of it, I understood why.
The half duck arrives balancing delicately on a black slab, the fowl's golden skin contrasting its ebony stage. Accompanying the lead star is its supporting cast: a thick smear of whole grain mustard, a couple of pickles, shredded carrot, reduced balsamic sauce, and a cup of ratatouille duck rice. Your fork and knife wins as you slice into the duck, the meat surrendering to the slightest motion of your utensils. A forkful of the duck confit brings to your palate crisp skin, with a luscious layer of fat embracing very tender meat. It's succulent in every bite, a testament to seriously slow cooking. There's no need for the sauce, really, but each supporting ingredient on the plate lends its varying acidity, crunch, and texture to make every mouthful of duck confit a different experience for you.
B is for Buvette, The French Version of Tapas
While The "D" in D&B may be more familiar to diners, it's the "Buvette" that leaves most curious. "It's the French's answer to the Spanish tapas," Chef Jacqueline shares. And just like tapas, their buvette selection comes in small plates, available all day to pair with your wine, cocktail, or coffee, ideal for meal starters or ordered as many plates for sharing.
For a lighter appetizer, start with Grilled Romaine Salad (P190), a beautiful chunk of charred romaine lettuce, topped with shaved parmesan, and drizzeld with anchovy garlic dressing. The garlic confit that comes along the salad was a delight to peel and smear on the greens. Chef Jacqueline muses that some customers don't even mind the garlic, and she assumes that they probably think they're raw and "too garlicky." They're missing out--and hopefully you won't--because garlic confit is smooth and velvety and enhances the salad (and pretty much anything savory).
Their buvette of Brandade de Bacalao Dip (P190) had a smooth texture as well, and each slather of it on bread was addictive. The saltiness of the salt cod (they also make their own bacalao) fools my tastebuds into thinking the bowl of spread has cheese. The creaminess of the potato is a must try.
Another hit among customers is the Bikini Sandwich (P270). Okay, so eating a lot of these slim grilled sandwiches won't make you extra bikini-body ready, but its flavors are sexy. The cheese sandwiches are warmly embraced by Parma ham and a layer of black truffle spread. It's a simple and elevated grilled cheese sandwich, and comforting to have any time of the day.
The Salsa Verde Lamb Neck (P320) showcases the beauty of slow cooking. The lamb neck, usually not found on restaurant menus, is roasted to perfection. The lamb is tender and its flavors, as the meat is right next to the bone, are earthier and bold (without being gamey). Served with salsa verde, and topped with fried chili, this is a buvette for the discerning meat lover in you.
If you want to try something other than duck and common meats, then may I suggest D&B's Veal Shank & Smacked Corn (P550)? It's not a buvette--it's a hefty main course--and it's great value for money. Get a huge serving of fork tender veal shank (it was bigger than my fist!) with bacon glaze sauce sitting on a bed of creamy smacked corn--think of the wonderful rich flavors of creamed corn, but the restaurant's version skips cream altogether. The chef shares that they just put a little butter on the corn and work real hard on some elbow grease to achieve the creamy texture.
D&B, for Desserts and a cup of Black
Seal your French meal with some sweets, and coffee to go along with dessert. Duck and Buvette is proud to be the first establishment in the country that features Chicago's Intelligentsia Coffee, and is also its exclusive distributor. Aside from serving their pour over coffees, espressos, and iced coffee, D&B has their coffee beans for sale and their merchandise as well.
I love brewed coffee taken black, but I know a lot that like to drown it in a lot of cream and sweetness. For those folks, Intelligentsia's Black Cat Classic (Carmo de Minas, Brazil, P160) is a great introduction for you to the wonderful world of black. It has a sweet aroma, clean and light taste, and no bitterness at all.
I paired my Black Cat with my new favorite dessert find, The Earl's Cheese Cake (P190). I am a fruity and cheesecake sugarholic more than anything, and a slice of D&B's homemade cheese cake fluttered my heart with every forkful. The cheesecake, made with fresh madacascar vanilla beans, was able to balance its tartness with the flavors of organic earl grey tea. It was my first time to experience earl grey in a cheesecake, thankfully it was maddeningly good. If I did not have any companions that afternoon, I would have eaten it all (and probably order a slice to bring home).
Their French Ice Cream Sandwiches (P180-P190 each) will roll out soon. The D&B macaron ice cream sandwich will have their home churned ice cream and house baked macarons; these macaron ice cream sandwiches will be rectangular, instead of circular. During the restaurant visit, the ice cream was available for tasting so I had a sampling (well, I wiped my plate clean) of the Cocoa Nibs & Madagascar Vanilla variety. Subtle in its sweetness, each spoonful had a tiny bite of crunchy bitterness with the cocoa. Two other flavors soon available are Wild Honey Thyme and Raspberry Sorbet.
Aside from the bakery and ice cream sandwiches, the chef reveals that they are working on more duck dishes, and perhaps a special brunch menu for the weekends. Be it with their duck or buvette, or desserts for that matter--D&B is set to make foodies in Manila fall in love with their interpretation of casual, feel-at-home French comfort food.
Visit D&B Duck & Buvette at the second floor, Main Wing of Shangri-La Plaza Mall. Like Duck & Buvette in Facebook (/duckbuvette) and follow them on Instagram (@duckbuvette).