Several years ago, when I was a little less of a chowhound, the duck for two was the first entree I ever tried at Salts. At the time, it struck me as a great dish, bold, romantic, and memorable.
I've returned a number of times since, trying progressively more interesting-sounding dishes, and now consider Salts to be one of the very best high-end restaurants in town. Bremer's cooking is magical, at once technically adroit and edgy, while never losing sight of the fact that no matter how interesting a dish may sound on paper, its first and foremost job is to please the palette. (A stellar current example of this is the spring parsnip and almond soup; never in a hundred years would I have thought to add a generous dollop of dark chocolate to the dish, but it added a depth and soulfulness that I've been thinking about ever since I tried it.)
Last week, for the first time since our first visit, we ordered the duck for two again. Surprisingly, while it was competently, even deliciously prepared, it just didn't do it for me this time. Whereas the rest of the menu is delicate, manicured, even cerebral, this dish felt more like comfort food, a gigantic portion of homogeneously colored meat and stuffing.
Again, it was very, very good for what it was; with the lavender honey glaze on the crispy, fatty skin, it absolutely trounced the version I had at Summer Winter a few months ago. And considering how many ducks I saw come out of the kitchen, it isn't hard to see why it's still being served. But for me anyway, it felt completely out of place with the ethos of the rest of the restaurant. As always, I look forward to returning as soon as I can, but I'm eager to get back to the elegance of the rest of the menu.