“I’m really, really, really fucking excited about this … and I don’t even curse anymore.”
That’s the word from chef Gabriel Rucker on his new Canard, a house of “wild French bar food” at 734 E Burnside Street. Here’s another one: the highly anticipated project now has an opening date: Monday, April 16—just evenings to start (4 p.m. until closing), with breakfast, lunch, and brunch menus to follow in a month or so. Also in the mix: raucous and serious drinking from Rucker’s longtime business partner, ace wine guy Andrew Fortgang. The 45-seat, still-in-progress space, a mix of banquettes, standing bars, and chef's counter, sits next door to their famed Le Pigeon.
So what exactly is “wild French bar food?” Based on Eat Beat’s menu sneak peek, think “French” in a loose sense: half-shell oysters and rabbit terrines, sure, but also steak tartare mingled with Chinese sausage and honey-roasted peanuts, and house soft-serve squirted down the center hole of a Paris-Brest pastry. Not to mention the “steam burger,” onion-scented patties on Hawaiian rolls—a house take on White Castle. And wine. Lots and lots of wine. Rare to vintage to classic, served with the house motto: “forget labels, screw dogma, try different things.”
The a la carte menu mixes roughly 20 dishes, big and small, most under $20. My first order will surely include the foie gras dumplings, set over peanut sauce, truffle vinaigrette, and miso-roasted shallots. I’m also intrigued by the mash-up of two Parisian bistro classics: aged steak in “onion soup” sauce, beneath a thick slice of toast dripping with Swiss cheese. Other dishes to watch for: Uni Texas toast (does anything sound more Rucker?) and sweet pea hummus with radish honey (so un-Rucker).
Expect about four Rucker-masterminded desserts, including soft serve with options for homemade cones, chocolate sauce, toppings, and sprinkles. Also in the works: chocolate butterscotch pie and classic Paris-Brest in seasonal flavors, like strawberry-coconut pastry cream.
Wine service will be front and center, with 20 wines by the glass, dives into Burgundy, and other house passions. “I have no problem juxtaposing $29 wines with $180 wines,” says Fortgang. He just cares about what tastes good, at fair prices.
In Canard’s kitchen, Rucker plans to “sling the pots and pans” at least one night a week; on other nights he’ll expedite (tasting and watching). Le Pigeon line cook Taylor Daugherty has been tapped as Canard’s head cook.
Rucker and Daugherty are already scheming the second phase: breakfast and brunch, which might be Canard’s secret weapon. So far, the plan calls for oysters, steam burgers, and pâté, along with baked goods, maple sausage, chorizo potatoes, and an “everything bagel” approach to a crêpe.
The wildest thing about Canard, according to Rucker? Just how carefully tested the recipes are. “That’s never happened before,” he confides. “Le Pigeon just happened; we never vetted any recipes for Little Bird. My style was so different then. I’m grown up and proud of it.”