We return to Qianmen Dajie for what may very well be the historic street's most famous of all stores - Qianjude Roast Duck Restaurant. Many local Beijingers swear by the Peking roast duck from Qianjude, though some others may be more inclined towards Qianjude's long-standing rival Bianyifang. The latter's history can be traced as far back as 1416, but it has gradually lost its dominance over the delicacy following Qianjude's entry into the scene.
Opened in 1864, this branch at Qianmen Dajie is the original, and is perennially packed at mealtimes. Much effort has been put into renovating and refurbishing this flagship restaurant, with the last major works having taken place in late 2007.
The interior of the restaurant is pretty, without being too elaborate. You would normally have to let luck decide your seating whilst you wait for your queue number to be called, but if you're intending to make a reservation (minimum spending required) just make sure you're on the upper level - the tables here are larger, more spaced out, and thus more comfortable for a leisurely duck feast. Luck was on our side that day, and we squealed with delight when we were assigned to a table on the second floor.
As with all orders of Peking duck, the manager presented the beauty to us before leaving the rest of the show to the chef. We waited with much hunger and anticipation for our roast duck, one which particularly has the longest historical background compared to the other ducks we've tried in Beijing.
Quanjude Roast Duck
The Quanjude Roast Duck was good stuff, in its own way, and it would depend on how you like your duck. Compared to the rest, the duck here is meatier and more "gamey", not the lean and delicate kind that has gained much favour in recent years.
There was also a noticeable trace of oil layering the duck (and later, lining the plate), which I suppose would invoke that brief sense of guilt for indulging in something seemingly unhealthy and high in fat. Even more so when four ducks were consumed in a space of seven days. Nevertheless, pretty decent, better than standard roast ducks here in Singapore, but again not something that you would want to particularly return to Beijing for. The next two Peking roast ducks that you'll be reading about on the other hand are worthy of such return journeys - they're quite in a league of their own.
The essential accompaniment to the Peking roast duck, the Pancake is an important component to the meal as it adds some measure of balance to a meat-dominated table. The plain and simple pancake from Quanjude also helped to ease off the oil from the duck, which was something much welcomed.
Quanjude also serves a drier but more wholesome Cornmeal Pancake in its roast duck set. Both of us still preferred the usual one (above), and it had a lot to do with it being lighter and slightly smoother.
Chicken with Chilli Sauce
As though roasted duck was not enough, we had another from the poultry family. The Chicken with Chilli Sauce turned out much better than expected, in large part because of its spiciness that sufficiently worked up the appetite. I'm sure this would have gone very well with steamed rice, but we were dealing with too much flour already and made do with making our own ad-hoc chilli chicken dumplings.
Fried Pumpkin Dumplings with Stuffed Milk
Yes, we had room for these as well. I'm not sure if we meant to have the Fried Pumpkin Dumplings as an appetiser or dessert, but these came in the middle of the meal and we had it anyway.
I liked it a lot, it was soft yet slightly crisp, and came piping hot both outside and inside. Just one bite and the milk spills out, so lap it up and make sure nothing is wasted. Delicious.
Excellent. Do come early to get your queue number, and for us it took about a thirty-minute wait. Enough time to shop around Uniqlo next door.
268RMB for the Quanjude Roast Duck, including accompaniments
44RMB for the Chicken with Chilli Sauce
26RMB for the Fried Pumpkin Dumplings with Stuffed Milk
No.32, Qianmen Dajie,
Chongwen District, Beijing.
Pictures taken with the Canon EOS 500D.