[so somehow you endured my rampage on peking duck in beijing and want to read more on said topic, eh (said with canadian accent)?]
we arrived in beijing on an early morning flight, and soon after dropping off our luggage at the hotel, packed ourselves into a taxi hurtling towards east 40th road bridge location of dadong roast duck restaurant. the restaurant itself was rather curiously ensconced within the newly restored imperial granary. there was, what appeared to be, a small museum to the side of the restaurant about the granary during the qing era.
a phalanx of valets, maitr’ds and greeters filled the entrance of the restaurant. once inside the vestibule, we observed a small army of chefs loading, turning and removing perfectly golden peking ducks from the blazing hot brick oven. the decor of the dining area took me by surprise. i guess, the last time i went to dadong (albeit different location), i sat at a traditionally decorated chinese restaurant — clean with carved wooden chinese chairs and yellow table cloth. this newest iteration of dadong featured black and silver as the primary colors. the table cloths were replaced by surfaces done up with a glossy, mirror like finish. the dragon and chinese symbols remained but more muted than before. same restaurant, same duck but re-packaged in shiny new garb befitting “nouveau china” and its nouveau riche clientele.
our waitress handed us a massive tome of a menu, weighing close to 5 lbs. after flipping thru 30-40 pages, we settled on the duck, stir fried baby snow peas shoots, gong bao shrimp and a small bowl of fried rice. the menu contained tons of opulent dishes that we didn’t order: abalone, sea cucumbers, crab, etc. i quite enjoyed the shrimp. the snow peas were well done, though nothing special. surprisingly, the fried rice came about 30 minutes late and was nothing short of terrible. fortunately, the duck made up for that mis-step.
the waitress placed the (optional; ~15rmb per person, i think) condiment platter for the duck on our tables. it contained sugar, pickled vegetables, scallions, cucumbers, hoisin sauce, radishes and fresh ground garlic. we stared at it for about 5 minutes until the master duck chef appeared table-side to carve our duck into perfectly thin, super crisp slices, and then arrange them into a floral pattern on a platter. i wonder how many years of training it takes to become a duck carver?
we had only ordered half a duck, but were unable to finish — no doubt because hubs fell in love with the accompanying pancakes. he started to eat the pancakes sans duck. we went through two baskets of pancakes because of his affinity for them. to this day, if you ask him what dish he enjoyed most in china, he’ll say the peking duck at dadong but really for the pancakes. me, i liked the duck. i found the duck flesh tender and the skin amazing light, airy and crispy. i think we have a good system worked out. one order of duck. duck for me; pancakes for him . . .
dadong also serves the duck with shao bing (烧饼; it’s kind of like a flakey and puffy bread dotted with sesame seeds) and a duck broth soup — not pictured. our bill came to around RMB400-500 for two people, an amount that is a bit exorbitant by local standards but reasonable for the quality of the meal.
the next night we headed over to peking duck, private kitchen (“PDPK”), a new duck restaurant that hadn’t been around the last time i stayed in the capital. PDPK is located in the ground floor of an office complex in the business district. it is much less opulent and over the top compared to da dong. the restaurant’s chinese name (果果私房烤鸭) refers to the fruit wood used to roast the duck. and indeed, upon stepping inside the restaurant the heady scent of burning fruit wood swept over us.
the interior of the restaurant is quite dark. it seemed as if each table was barely illuminated by the light from candles warming plates of duck placed on top. the tables and benches are quite low to the ground, as if to replicate the sensation of being seated on a manchurian kang.
the chef at PDPK has a different style of serving peking duck compared to dadong. once we placed our order (whole duck only), a small plate containing sugar and thin slices of duck neck skin appeared. while the duck fat had been drained, the skin tasted much smokier and less airy compared with dadong — then again duck neck skin does tend to be tougher than skin from the rest of the duck.
our waitress set the main platter of roast duck on top of a candle to keep it warm. while artfully presented, the chef carved the duck in a manner that featured the duck flesh rather than the duck skin. the skin had been sliced into thin slivers attached to duck flesh that really didn’t allow me to fully experience the joy of eating crisp duck skin by itself.
like at dadong, we were also served duck broth soup and pancakes. hubs commented that the pancakes at dadong were thinner and less chewy compared with PDPK. he liked dadong’s more, but he gobbled up a whole bunch of those wrappers nonetheless.
PDPK is good value for money, and at 99 rmb per duck, it’s the most affordable duck on my list (there are some local places that serve peking duck for 50-70 rmb). i’d say that their duck on any given day is better than your average duck in beijing, and especially better than peking duck in nyc.
that said, da dong, for now, still remains tops for peking duck in my book. . .
Da Dong: (大董烤鸭店–东四十条)
1-2/F, Nanxincang International Plaza, 22A Dongsishitiao, Beijing, China
Open daily 11am-10pm
**there are several other locations in Beijing
Peking Duck, Private Kitchen: (果果私房烤鸭)
Vantone Center, 6A Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
Open daily 11am-2pm, 5pm-9.30pm
Tel: 86-10-5907 1920