i promised hubby that we would gorge ourselves on some of the best peking duck on the planet during out trip to china. we would only be in beijing for a day and a half, which would allow us to have two peking duck meals. i suppose i could have squeezed in a third, but our cholesterol levels at that point might easily have shot into territories even beyond lipitor’s rescue. a few weeks before i left for the trip to in late august, i started researching the best places to eat peking duck in the capital. i began by looking for the “top 10 / best of” lists, and surprisingly, many of the lists i came across had not been updated in 5 years. given the amount of change that has been taking place in china, i would have expected the top ranks of duck houses to at least include a few new names.
after some digging, i compiled a short list of my own (see below), and decided to pick one old standby, Da Dong, and one new place, Peking Duck, Private Kitchen to try.
tomato in tribeca’s short list of top peking duck houses (August 2010) — in no particular order and not by any means completely exhaustive:
(* indicates where we actually ended up going)
- Quan Ju De: (全聚德) this one has been around forever and was the first duck house i ate at in china about 15 years ago when i believe it was still a state-run affair. nowadays it’s got franchises galore throughout china, hk and australia. the restaurant is frequently mentioned as being the place for eating duck, though i personally think that their standing has more to do with their storied 130+ year history. since trying the restaurant 15 years ago, i have never gone back — we were served a duck with 1 inch of duck fat still intact. blubbery and totally inedible. interestingly my beijing friends from back then told me that the fatter duck was considered to be more of a delicacy. i have to think that in the 15 years since my visit, they’ve managed to roast a leaner duck in accords with modern tastes. perhaps it’s worth another look.
Peking Duck: ~220 RMB; although prices vary by location (they used to have a foreign tourist section where prices were much higher than for locals, not sure if they still do).
- Made in China: (长安壹号) the restaurant is located inside the grand hyatt hotel in beijing. it was the hottest peking duck house in town 5 years ago, and the duck, pricey by local standards, was extremely flavorful and tender. i thought about booking there, but got swayed by my old standby, Da Dong, instead.
Peking Duck: ~250 RMB.
- Duck de Chine – 1949: (全鸭季) Y called up her friend in beijing to inquire about the best place for peking duck. her friend mentioned this place. apparently the duck is similar to da dong in taste but the place has got a nouveau modern china ambiance. it’s inside a converted factory space and has an art gallery out front. will have to try the next time i’m in beijing.
Update: Y just wrote me. Apparently, she just ate dinner there and thinks Da Dong is still better … that said, she thought their sauce was quite interesting–it had a yin-yang swirl effect…
Peking Duck: ~188 RMB.
- Li Qun Roast Duck: (利群烤鸭店) my friend S dragged me to this place 5 years ago. you have to go down some dirty alleys before finding this place inside a converted hutong (old style home). S had gone there before and swore that they served the best duck because they used some sort of special fruit type wood to roast their ducks. i thought the duck was really nothing special, but what really got me was how dirty the place was. i didn’t get sick or anything but felt rather uncomfortable the whole time there. not sure if they’ve managed to remodel in the last 5 years. while it’s not the most expensive duck in the city, they’ve jacked up their prices in the last 5 years — no doubt because they were featured in all these tourist books (used to be under 100 RMB per duck, i believe). sounds like they’ve managed to evolve into a total tourist trap to me.
Peking Duck: ~190 RMB.
- *Da Dong: (大董烤鸭店) i fell in love with this restaurant 5 years ago, and i still love it today. if anything, they’ve managed to get better with age. they’ve got several branches around the city. we went to their newest and ritziest location inside the old imperial granary. they were never the cheapest duck house in town, and their prices (especially for other menu items) have increased in the last 5 years. however, i think the quality is worth it.
Peking Duck: ~200 RMB
- *Peking Duck, Private Kitchen: (果果私房烤鸭) great value for money. the duck is similar in flavor to Li Qun, but the place is a lot cleaner, more modern, and the duck a lot cheaper. prices for other dishes were quite reasonable. they are not super fancy like Da Dong but they get the job done.
Peking Duck: 99 RMB
Reviews on Da Dong and Peking Duck, Private Kitchen forthcoming