Dining in DC with Larry David

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Photo Courtesy of HBO

Can you imagine going to a restaurant with Larry David? All his neuroses are enough to make anyone meshugena,* much less a wait staff trying to be professional and helpful. Suffice it to say the Blue Duck Tavern staff was outstanding.

The chestnut soup sounded wonderful. But when Mr. David was told it came with small marshmallows, his hands waved around ordering them away. But the homemade, small, square marshmallows slowly melted into the soup. Their slightly tangy flavor balanced the sweetness of the creamy chestnut soup. After the rest of us "oohed and ahhed," Larry motioned to the waiter to bring back his marshmallows.

Then there was the sashimi-quality mackerel pate. Also sounded wonderful. It came with a thick cream on the top. Mr. David was disgusted. All that cream! He missed another subtle dish. Mackerel, bluefish and others are frequently avoided by diners because they are oily and "fishy." But when these fish are smoked or made into pâté, that "fishiness" is attenuated and the result is a smooth, but tasty, savory treat. This mackerel pâté was robust, as a pâté should be -- with a slightly peppery finish. Definitely an unexpected delight.

After the rest of us 'oohed and ahhed,' Larry motioned to the waiter to bring back his marshmallows.

For the main course, we were at a "tavern" and Larry was having trouble with all the meats on the menu. So he ordered the sturgeon. I ordered the braised beef rib. The table had roasted mixed mushrooms. The beef rib was delectable. Served on a cleaned rib bone, the three chunks were soft and easily cut. They melted in the mouth with a nice taste -- not overpowering but, again like the pâté, robust. The wild mushrooms were a well-rounded mixture of different types, gently roasted yet slightly firm and crunchy.

Well, Larry went at it again. The sturgeon came poached in a (damn) cream sauce. He yelled at the waiter, Didn't the waiter now understand he did not eat any red meat or dishes made with cream? As a sign of the tremendous service, the waiter came back with a grilled sturgeon, no cream.

Why was Larry so particular? He has high cholesterol and refuses to eat any meat or cream. When advised -- by his agent and friend -- that he should just take a statin and eat to his heart's delight, Larry dismissed the idea. "I attract every side effect of these drugs."

"What do you mean? You get nausea, rashes, pain? Do your teeth itch?

"Yes, they all happen to me."

That is the Larry David who makes us -- the only slightly less neurotic, over educated Americans -- admire and love him and his shows.

He pushed the Blue Duck's staff, but they responded with uncomplaining service. Plus, the food is excellent, definitely making the Blue Duck one of my top 10 picks in Washington, D.C.

*Larry David read this review and approved it.

Presented by

Ezekiel J. Emanuel is an oncologist, a bioethicist, and a vice provost of the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author or editor of 10 books, including Brothers Emanuel and Reinventing American Health Care.

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