There's no mystery as to what's on the menu at Kamo-shabu Chikutei. Even if you didn't know that "kamo" means "duck," the lamps at the entrance with their stylized image of a mallard in flight give the game away.

More of an eye-opener, though, is just what a dominating role duck plays at this refined basement restaurant. It's not just the main ingredient in the star dish — it's in just about everything.

Chikutei is unusual in other ways, too. Having made your way down the narrow stairs and through an unprepossessing hallway, it comes as a pleasant surprise to find yourself in a bright, spacious, contemporary setting, rather than ensconced in traditional decor.