I visited Odd Duck for the first time tonight with my friends Annie and Mike. After a long week, I’m usually not a Friday night gal, but this experience was worth the drive from my home on the west side of Milwaukee to Bayview, our ever evolving foodie paradise. We had a 6:30 reservation, which I was thankful for; this tiny venue was packed when I arrived.

Let’s say, I’d heard some rave reviews about this place, but didn’t really have a clue what to expect. I was surprised at how small the place is – a limited number of tables and bar seats, although I noticed a back patio from my indoor table. The kitchen is literally closed in by unfinished 2×4’s and curtains – I wondered out loud at one point in the evening where they wash all the dishes! Despite the tight quarters, the ambiance is lovely – it feels comfortable, retro and a little bit chic.

After Annie and I ordered our wine (and Mike chose bourbon) we decided on an appetizer. I was impressed with the meat and cheese selection which offered a variety of a la carte options, all served with warm (warm!) crusty bread and excellent compliments.

Charcuterie & Cheese Board

Charcuterie & Cheese Board

Our selections included Old Skool Salami from Bolzano Meats (a local Milwaukee favorite), pepperoni, coppa and soppressata from Underground Meat Company, and we took our waiter’s recommendation on the cheese selection. Accompaniments included peach preserves, grainy mustard and some of the best pickles I’ve tasted in a long time.

Once we made our way through conversation and course number one, I left it up to Annie and Mike to make the decision on the small plates to follow. They did not disappoint!

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Egg Rolls

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Egg Rolls

The pork egg rolls were my favorite of the evening. Served with Sriracha aioli, these little puppies were an incredible combination of salty, well-prepared pork wrapped in the crispiest fried wrapper I’ve ever encountered. Perfection.

Pork Belly & Clam Korean Pancake

Pork Belly & Clam Korean Pancake

I’m fairly certain this was Annie’s favorite dish of the night – a pancake filled with pork and clam, topped with scallions, little curly fried wonton strips, cucumber and a sweet ginger-chili sauce. In my opinion, the highlight of this dish was the sauce – I wasn’t in love with the rest of it, by my companions were enamored.

Seared Scallops

Seared Scallops

The seared scallops were nested on a spicy udon noodle salad dressed in wasabi yuzu vinaigrette and mixed with seaweed. This dish is completely in my wheelhouse, so I can’t put my finger on why it didn’t put me over the top. The scallops were prepared perfectly, but something was missing in the total package. The scallops were worth it though.

Bread pudding & creme brulee

Bread pudding & creme brulee

Our little adventure wouldn’t have been complete without a sample of two of the three desserts featured tonight. Clearly, we couldn’t even hold ourselves back to take a picture without digging in! Mike is the creme brulee guy, so that wasn’t event a question. This one was infused with lavender –  spectacular reviews from us and was compared to the magnificence of Lake Park Bistro’s version. The bread pudding was at my insistence. It had bacon in it. I kid you not. For me, this is the perfect combo: soft, saturated almost savory bread pudding with the essence of bacon, sitting in a pool of caramel, topped with sea salted ice cream. Pure Heaven.

All in all, I thought Odd Duck was an excellent experience. When we left, around 8:00, the crowd had thinned out and there were tables and bar seats available, which was nice. Our server, despite being busy all night was great about taking the time to give us quality recommendations and never seemed impatient. The atmosphere was beyond easy – laid back and comfortable, but stylish and unique. Small plates ranged from $6-$15, with most being in the $8-$10 range. Both glasses and bottles of wine were offered and the spirit collection was extensive.

I’d recommend Odd Duck for a night with friends or family dinner. There’s nothing romantic about it; it just feels easy and fun.

http://www.oddduckrestaurant.com/

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