It’s been three years since Shangri-la Plaza favorite Café Provençal relaunched itself as Duck and Buvette, picking up from the original restaurant’s French roots but presenting the often-intimidating cuisine in a more casual, accessible way. While the restaurant has retained their core philosophy of slow cooking, the use of good ingredients, and the making of as many components—from their pasta to their pastries to their house specialty of value-for-money, always-crisp-and-unctous duck confit—from scratch, the restaurant has also grown in many ways since their first year of opening.
“We’ve improved on the dishes . . . [in terms of] flavor,” shares Chef Jacq Tan. “We’ve [also] changed the menu here and there.” One challenge they had to face was the overwhelming demand for their signature duck dish that Tan admits they had not prepared for when they opened. “Our projected was how many ducks lang a day to sell, [and] our oven was only fit for [so much] . . . I [would be] staying here at 3 am just to make sure . . . [we’d] have duck the next morning. It takes how long to confit, how long to cure?” she shares. “We [had] to move the production out kasi ‘di na kinakaya (‘because [our in-house resources] couldn’t handle it).” This doesn’t seem to have set them back one bit however, as they continue to sell about 700-800 ducks a month.
In any restaurant, the hardest thing to achieve is consistency . . . We really put time and value into that because that’s . . . your [way] of inviting the guests back. It’s still a challenge every time, but it’s not as challenging as before.”
As they continue to draw in regulars with their homey ambience, fun takes on buvette (small plates), and hearty mains, you’ll also find a few relatively new offerings that command a revisit to the homegrown establishment. Here are some of our favorites:
If you’ve been looking to try rabbit meat, Duck & Buvette offers a reasonably-priced, buvette-portioned dish that will make you rethink the possibilities of the so-called “new super meat“. Tan uses rabbits sourced locally (from a farmer friend, to be specific) and bred for consumption, and stews them in a rich but tangy mustard cream sauce that adds a zip without overpowering the rabbit’s lean, predominantly white flesh (which really does taste like chicken, perhaps with a slightly gamier finish). Notably, the rabbit stays tender—a remarkable quality considering rabbit meat’s tendency to easily dry out. Toasted slices of their signature sourdough served on the side make for a great starch to sop up all the stew’s hearty juices.
This classic stew is the hallmark of slow cooking and stick-to-your-ribs, hearty French fare. Consisting of beans (an ingredient Chef Tan says she especially loves), their duck confit, pork belly, and fennel sausage (also made in-house) that meld and become one with a low-and-slow stint in the oven. The result is an incredibly rich-tasting dish that is as complex as it is comforting, with the fattiness of the meats evened out with the tang of tomatoes. And while all components becomes tender and yielding, they amazingly retain their individual integrity, staying texturally distinct from the other parts rather than dissolving into a pile of mush. We’d recommend pairing this decidedly heavy dish with one of their salads (we’re especially big fans of their piquant Octopus Salad) and an equally full-bodied wine—though we won’t judge if you decide to take this with rice.
Duck & Buvette does a pretty mean take on the traditional waffle variation known as gaufre de liège, which hails from Belgium but—as food blog Smitten Kitchen points out—are far different from the more ubiquitous so-called “Belgian waffles” that are actually of American origin (e.g., the kind you’d find at IHOP). Made with a yeasted dough that Chef Tan likens to that of a brioche and pressed between the waffle iron just as you order, you get a slightly craggy, lightly caramelized surface with large, deep-set pockets. This makes way to an interior that’s part-fluffy in the way that bread can be, but also part-dough-y and stretchy, with a pronounced buttery taste and a hint of a yeasty tang, studded with pearl sugar that melts in some areas but retains its crystal structure in others, making for an occasional sweet crunch. With more complexity in flavor than the typical baking powder/soda-leavened waffles, it’s great as it is—but it also works well paired with other sweet or savory elements: we particularly like the Tartine variant, which is served with homemade raspberry jam and a duck-shaped knob of Intelligentsia coffee butter; as well as the Ham n’ Cheddar, which comes topped with Colby Jack and Parma ham for a sweet-and-salty bite.
Duck & Buvette
A restaurant serving French fare and retaining its core philosophy of using fresh ingredients, cooking slow, and making components from scratch—in a casual atmosphere.