Rye has some wicked good duck on its menu. After all, everyone should try their duck poutine if they are going to live near a university with a ubiquitous duck mascot.
Rye’s $12 duck poutine is a salty, rich affair of fries, cheese curds and pulled duck, drizzled with a heavenly demi-glace (gravy, in layman’s terms). You will lick your plate to get more of this dark, oily deliciousness.
Co-owner and chef Jeff Passerotti says Rye’s duck poutine and duck breast are so popular that the restaurant buys about 80 ducks a month to keep up with demand.
“Literally what we do is we buy whole ducks, take the fat and clarify the fat,” Passerotti says. “Then we take the duck legs and thighs and we let them cure for three days, then we cook them off in the duck fat so it’s very, very tender.”
The demi-glace is made from simmering down three gallons of beef and duck stock to a mere four cups. “It’s heavily concentrated, very flavorful demi-glace, that we call gravy, goes that into the poutine,” Passerotti says.
The pricier duck plate on the Rye menu is the pan-seared duck breast with a red wine gastrique, a kind of sweet and sour sauce. For $26, diners partake in a medium rare Pekin duck breast, with a side of roasted vegetables from local farms.
“The idea behind the menu is it’s a snapshot of local produce, local proteins,” Passerotti says.
The cocktail menu at Rye also places this casual fine-dining nook among the city’s finest bars.
“Every day I squeeze fresh lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, and any berries I get,” says Derek Lianos, Rye’s bar manager. He pulls out a beaker of pale pink juice, telling me it’s a shrub he concocted from strawberries and rhubarb. A shrub is a sweet drinking vinegar, often used in cocktails.
I take a gulp of the chilled strawberry rhubarb, and it hits me like a volt — it’s so fucking good. It’s as if Skittles and a strawberry rhubarb pie decided to have a threesome with a tablespoon of cold vinegar.
“It’s equal parts fruit, vinegar and sugar. You put it in a tub. I let mine sit for about 10 days,” Lianos says.
Rye’s current summer cocktail using a Liano’s strawberry rhubarb shrub is the $12 Butterfly Effect, which pairs the shrub with a Scottish gin.
Eikeland Kottke, a customer, enjoyed a cold $8 Sazerak from the bar, pulling from Rye’s Pre-Prohibition classics menu.
“It was really well balanced, between the spiciness of the rye and the liquorish notes from the other spirit. If you want an actual Sazerak, that’s what it’s supposed to taste like. Very satisfying,” he says.
Rye Restaurant is open for lunch 11:30 to 2 pm Monday through Friday, from 5 to 9 pm Monday through Thursday and 5 to 10 pm Friday and Saturday for dinner, at 444 E. 3rd Avenue. For more information, see ryeon3rd.com