Succulent Duck and Good Times
A couple of weeks ago Regina and I caught the tail end of Jonathan Gold’s review of the Beijing Duck House on Evan Kleinman’s Good Food radio show. Since we’ve rarely been led astray by Mr. Gold, we were determined to give it a try as soon as possible. That possibility occurred today, for lunch.
|Very good Peking (Beijing) Duck with all the accoutrements.|
We met a few friends at this somewhat strange-looking restaurant on the fringes of San Gabriel. The duck establishment is housed in what seems to be a rather industrial cinder-block assemblage adorned with gaudy red Chinese lanterns. The interior is more muted and would be perhaps slightly dispiriting without the throng of happy-faced diners, most of whom are ordering the eponymous Beijing duck.
I’m afraid I can’t get away from calling it Peking duck, no matter what current politics or social niceties determine I should call it. Peking duck I love! Beijing duck I’m less sure of. One thing I am totally certain of is that the Peking duck at The Beijing Duck House is excellent.
|The master duck carver, carving.|
I’ve had wonderful Peking Duck here in LA, in NYC, in Atlanta, and in San Francisco, but I’ve never witnessed it carved table-side. The “duck guy” was a master carver (not a duck hacker), deftly removing succulent meat and crispy skin from our birds with speed and dexterity. The meat was placed artfully in a white platter with a ceramic duck head presiding over the meat on one end, looking placidly over the glistening slices as if to say “please partake of my luscious flesh, happy diner”.
Since I’m not one to argue with a serving platter, I complied, wrapping a couple slices of duck with slivers of cucumber, scallion greens, a basting of hoisin sauce, and a generous dose of oily chili paste in a thin, tender wheat pancake. The pancakes (somewhat stingily portioned, truth be told) were more delicate than I’ve had before, less like a flour tortilla and more like a crepe. They were nice, but lacked the fragrant daub of toasted sesame oil I prefer.
|Chinese duck taco?|
Overall, however, the duck was excellent. We all remarked on the relative lack of fat. It was remarkably un-greasy, the skin was crispy, and the meat was delicious. I can’t say it’s the very best duck I’ve ever had, but it certainly ranks high, and not just for the duck itself, but for the presentation and the care in which it’s served.
We were not expecting much from the vegetable sides and the fried rice we ordered. We went in with a rather “duck-centric”mission. However, we were surprised and pleased by the high quality of the Ma-Po tofu, the slightly mysterious “Green-Leaf” Tofu, the bok choy and mushrooms, and the fried rice. Also good was a soup made from the leftover duck bones hacked up from the carcasses of the ducks we ordered.
|This Ma-Po Tofu exhibited the distinct flavor of Sichuan peppercorn. Very enjoyable and not too spicy.|
|Three treasures fried rice was good, somewhat predictable.|
|Baby bok choy and dried shiitakes was simple, good, a trifle dull. Lacked a bit of “wok hay” perhaps.|
The service at the Beijing Duck House was pleasant and efficient. The prices were great. Ducks were just over $30 apiece. For a table of seven adults and three kids we ordered two ducks, four veggies sides, soup, and rice. Even with tax and tip the total came to about $16 a person. Not a bad price indeed for succulent duck and good times.
BEIJING DUCK HOUSE
6420 Rosemead Blvd., San Gabriel