Beijing, China / May 30, 2010 / dinner
Winederlust Rating (details below): 7.75 out of 10 / Winederlust Worthy: Yes
If Beijing could be said to have one signature dish, it would have to be Peking duck. It’s said that this duck was first served as long ago as the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) and was a very popular dish for the emperor and his court during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). During the 1700s, the upper classes started to eat Peking duck and, finally, in the 1800s, duck began to be served to those who could afford it with the opening of several Beijing restaurants specializing in Peking duck.
Quanjude was actually one of the first Peking duck restaurants to open in the city, in 1864. Their claim to fame is that they cook the ducks by hanging them in a large oven for about 45 minutes, over an open fire that uses the hardwood of peach or pear trees. This process leaves the skin crispy but the duck meat extremely tender and flavorful.
We started the meal with a sweet red wine that tasted like a manzanilla sherry and quickly switched to a Changyu Cabernet Sauvignon, earthy, chianti-like, and not too oaky.
Though we were teased by dishes of scallion and plum sauce next to each of our plates (which we knew would eventually go atop the duck!), lots of appetizers were set on the table while we awaited the main course: cucumber, thin strips of tofu, green seaweed, boiled duck parts, roast beef, chicken nuggets with shrimp crackers, sweet and sour meatballs, and beef with veggies. I tried not to fill up as we awaited the main course, which was being carved on one side of the room.
Finally our server placed a plate of freshly carved duck and a dish of thin pancakes on the Lazy Susan.
Then our server demonstrated how to construct a proper serving of Peking duck. First, dip a few pieces of duck in the plum sauce. Second, place the dipped duck into the middle of a pancake. Third, add a sprinkle of scallion.
Fourth, roll the duck pancake and fold the edges till you can hold it in your hand.
Finally, take a delicious bite! The duck was tender and smooth, with a pleasant tang from the plum sauce.
To finish the meal, we were brought steaming bowls of duck soup, which had a slight milky color but tasted like chicken broth – a soothing ending to a memorable Beijing meal.
– by Liz Humphreys, Winederlust Eater in Chief
Winederlust Rating Details (out of 10):
Food: 8.0 (preparation, presentation & taste)
Wine: 7.5 (selection, recommendations, pairings & taste)
Service: 7.5 (helpfulness, attentiveness, knowledge & pacing)
Place: 8.0 (location, view, decor & vibe)
Price Range: $ (Cheap)
Quanjude / 14 Qianmen Xidajie, Chongwen District (plus 5 other branches throughout Beijing), Beijing, China
Direct Line: 86-10-63018833
Open daily 10:30am to 10pm; reservations recommended.