I'm love Peking Ducks and have eaten it in cities such as Auckland, Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, London, Melbourne, Toronto and many more.
Despite eating it in many restaurants I still have not found one that excelled in both the First and Second Course. Iata Pata in Bangkok has the best first course, serving the crispiest skin with a really soft crepe. Lai Wah Heen in Toronto serves the best second course with the duck meat being used to make a delicious Hong Kong Style Pie that is not seen in any other places I've been to.
However there are three restaurants that I have not visited that are considered by many to be the mecca of Peking Ducks. The first is Quanjude, second Dadong and third Bianyifang. All three are based in Beijing with Quanjude being the more famous of the bunch.
Established in 1864 Quanjude (Quan-Ju-De) is considered one of the world's oldest restaurant to serve up Peking Duck based on the recipe that is reserved for China's Imperial Court. After over a century it has now grown to become China's largest restaurant group with over fifty outlets in China, Hong Kong and Melbourne, Australia and has played host to many foreign dignitaries in their main Beijing Restaurant. Holding such a famous reputation Kim and I visited their Tianjin Branch for dinner.
Entering the restaurant we were greeted with an open kitchen that showed some ducks hanging out to dry and the massive wood fired ovens that were used to roast the ducks.
Ordering was done not at our seat but at another hall that showcased live samples of all the food that are available for us to order. We stuck with what we came for and ordered their most expensive Peking Duck that cost RMB 180 per duck. In addition, we had a cold dish of Duck's Feet and some Stir-Fry Mixed Vegetables.
We expected the chef to carve the duck in front of us but this didn't happen. Our first course arrived via our waitress who came with a small plate of Duck Skin and a basket full of Flour Crepes. We were a puzzled at how an entire duck would have so little skin and why we were given so many crepes but this was resolved when our second course of Sliced and De-boned Duck Meat arrived. Unlike other places where the crepes are mainly used for the first course, at Quanjude the crepes were meant to be eaten with both the skin and the meat course.
We wrapped the Skin together with some Cucumber, Green Onion and Hoi-Sin Sauce but found the skin and crepe disappointing . The skin wasn't very crispy and was oozing with fat as we bit into it. Kim felt nauseous after eating a couple of slices. The crepe wasn't good either as it was too chewy and tough.
The Duck Meat however was a lot better. It had the right combination of skin, fat and meat. The meat tasted bland but was very tender. Dipped in their Hoi-Sin Sauce it was actually quite good.
Our third course of Duck Soup was also disappointing. The soup just tasted of white pepper and nothing else. The only other restaurant where I had the third course served was "Old Kingdom" in Melbourne and theirs was so much better.
Our cold dish of Duck's Feet wasn't very good either. The feet had a crunchy texture from the cartilage but we were not a fan of the Sesame Sauce Vinaigrette which was a little too sour.
Stir-Fried Beancurd with Garlic and Celery was almost inedible as it was way too oily and salty.
We were terribly disappointed with our meal tonight. The Peking Duck is probably one of the worse I've had and to top it off the service was also sub-par. Throughout our meal the wait staff spent more time chatting among themselves then tending to the needs of the customers. I am amazed at how this restaurant still continues to win many top awards and maintain so many branches with such food.
Price: $$ (Under USD $20 per person)
Address: Heping District, Lhasa Dao Number 48
Tel:+86 2781 4721