Seven days, four ducks. Ever since then, no other Peking Roast Duck outside of China comes close to the real deal. Follow me this week as I take you through four of the best that Beijing has to offer, beginning with Duck de Chine at 1949, to Quanjude at Qianmen Dajie, to Made in China at Grand Hyatt, and finally to my personal favourite of them all, Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant. Same delicacy in four unique ways, I'm getting all hungry just having to think about them again.
We begin with Duck de Chine at 1949, a swanky "hidden city" close to the up and coming Sanlitun District. Many would understandably dismiss 1949 as an enclosed dining and entertainment venue meant to breed that sense of elitism in the rich to feel good about themselves, but this is also one amazing place to impress your date - get light-headed with an apéritif before soaking up the romantic atmosphere with some good food and good company. Of course, Duck de Chine has a more Chinese (restaurant) set-up, but it keeps with the theme and continues to win praise for its modern impressionist style and classy ambience.
Truth be told, I was actually here for its much-raved Duck Confit but was terribly dismayed to find out that they have discontinued the item for quite some time now. It doesn't quite make sense, surely not to me, that the establishment's top dish has been taken off the menu, but since it was cold outside and there wasn't anything particularly enticing at Sanlitun's The Village (where the young and rich / wannabes gather) we settled for the manager's recommendation - Peking Roast Duck.
Duck de Chine's Special Sauce
I'm only calling it Duck de Chine's Special Sauce because of the way they would mix the traditional condiments of sesame, peanut and fried minced garlic so prettily together. It's delicious done this way, though some may find it a tad salty and would more than readily opt for a serving of Hoisin sauce or a small dipping bowl of sugar to accompany their precious roast ducks.
Peking Roast Duck
The ceremonial slicing of your Peking Roast Duck is almost always somewhat of a show, from the presentation of the bird (which leaves you going, "Now, this is my duck") to the deft slices by the chef, and then to the delivery of different cuts of the duck in different plates. Here at Duck de Chine they begin it all with the sound of a gong, as if it were a virgin to a sacrifice.
The Peking Roast Duck (I know, some of you would rather call it Beijing Roast Duck after Beijing Kao Ya) was good, but not great. According to my friend Shuo, we have been too pampered with the ducks from the well-established Da Dong and Qianjude that our standards have shot up too high to be completely reasonable. The skin of the duck was crispy and smooth no doubt, but the meat was not the most tender and was even dry on some parts. The steamed flour wrap was too thick and dry as well, and so could not help much either.
Stir-Fried Ma Po Beancurd
Otherwise known as Ma Po Tofu, the Ma Po Beancurd was similarly tasty but not mind-blowingly so. It did reveal the Chinese penchant for having things either salty or sweet (in this case, it was more of the latter) but at least it was of a decent spiciness level to keep the appetite going. A good "side dish" to the Peking duck.
Very good, but reservations are a must.
About 238RMB for the whole Peking duck
8RMB per person for sauces and accompaniments
82RMB for the Stir-Fried Ma Po Beancurd
* Prices subject to 10% service charge.
Gong Ti Bei Lu,
Chaoyang District, Beijing.
Located directly behind Pacific Century Place.
Note: Taxis don't seem to know 1949's exact location very well.
Pictures taken with the Canon EOS 500D.