First published on 3 Sep 2012. Updated on 14 Jul 2014.
Chef Zhang Lu Jun has been roasting ducks at Quanjude for over 20 years. Now he’s carving out his dream of owning a restaurant specialising in what he knows best, making some of the finest duck in Beijing at Peking Duck, Private Kitchen.
The scent of smoky wood immediately hits you like a soft pillow when you enter, giving you the feeling you’ve arrived somewhere really special – and you have. Pale ducks hang in a sullen state of waiting to bronze by the fire-burning domed oven. It’s glassed-in like the rest of the kitchen, giving diners a show performed in a silent hush – a glorious panoply of kitchen mime.
The small menu has a succinct selection that makes ordering easy. The marinated bamboo shoots (20RMB) arrive as the simple boiled and salted shoots we’ve seen before. They’re good, but a much simpler preparation than we expected.
The hot and sour crab soup (18RMB) is a bowl of brackish liquid, overthickened with a few drops of vinegar and nothing else. When the waiter enquires if something is wrong with the barely eaten soup, awkwardness prevails. Besides, you get a wonderful milky duck broth with millet at the end of the meal, so it’s not worth making too much fuss about.
Our hero is the guo guo duck (99RMB), named after the fruitwood (date) used for roasting. It’s a bargain and the entertainment provided by watching Chef Zhang proudly transport each mahogany duck to his altar, a dramatically lit sideboard that becomes the stage for his performance art, is worth the cost alone.
The carving is seamless, perfectly executed each time. Batons of melon provide a refreshing condiment, highlighting the sweetness of the meat.
But while the duck is perfect, it has to be said that the pancakes are slightly thick, compromising the delicate flavours and texture wrapped within.
The fried papaya with vegetables (26RMB) is a colourful, unusual mélange of flavours: ripe fruit, lily bulb, bell peppers, bitter melon and celery. We wolf down the braised pork and eggplant noodles (16RMB) – a soft ragu of minced pork and melting mini-cubes of soft aubergine mingled with tender but firm noodles.
With excellent service and conscientious management who really want you to have a great experience, head towards Peking Duck, Private Kitchen to order what is simply some of the very best duck in town. Lillian Chou