Top 5 Peking Duck
January 22, 2010 | BY Hong Kong Tatler
Arguably the best dish to come out of China's capital, indulge on the wholesome, crispy-skinned duck at these leading establishments, ranging from local institutions to newcomers
There's something about a glistening roasted Peking duck that makes this dining experience ideal for celebratory occasions. You gather around friends or loved ones around the table to indulge on the rich and fatty hunk of meat. A waiter brings a trolley showing off the goods: a glossy bird dripping in its juices. Then an expert carver swiftly slices it up into pieces like it's some art form, an essential part of the feast due to its spectacle showmanship. Once the bite sized pieces are laid out on a plate, wrap them up in steamed pancakes with a generous swipe of sweet bean sauce.
By now, we're all very familiar with this ritual, as the city has its fair share of Beijing-style restaurants that showcase this iconic Chinese dish. In that spirit, we've assembled five leading establishments to feast on such a glutton's delight, from good value options to those offering a more classy and sophisticated dining experience, plus where to go if you're with a Peking duck first-timer. We've also included one of very few venues that has added a modern spin to this classic although, safe to say, the contemporary flourish is applied to the accompaniments than the duck centrepiece (which really shouldn't be tampered with). Most restaurants on this list require patrons to advance order the duck. Also, don't hesitate to doggy bag any leftovers.
If you've got friends from out of town and you'd like to treat them to an authentic Chinese meal with extra theatrics on the side, this restaurant won't disappoint. By the Maxim's group, Peking Garden has a handful of branches around town, although this elegant outpost in Central is perhaps the most popular for the classic Peking duck experience. You can tell the duck is the most sought-after dish from the Beijing-focused menu. Look around: Many tables have servers rolling up with trolleys with the roasted, wholesome bird, and carvers swiftly slicing the meat onto a plate. Peking Garden knows how to amp it up to create a spectacle, also hosting live noodle making demonstrations where patrons can watch a chef twist and stretch the dough until it becomes skinny hair-thin strands. It usually takes about 30 minutes for the duck to arrive on your table. And when it does, the skin has a thin and beautifully crisp layer that's golden with that subtle maltose-sweetness, alongside the fatty richness and meat underneath. It's served with the traditional duck accompaniments such as pancakes, scallions and sweet bean sauce. Reservations are highly recommended.
Peking Garden, Shop B1, Basement, Alexandra House, 16-20 Chater Road, Central. Tel: +852 2526-6456.
Another local institution, this venue is a little easy to miss in the neon-lit district of Tsim Sha Tsui's Mody Road, yet it's always packed to the brim with local regulars. Reservations are highly recommended, as during weekends the restaurant is often fully booked. Inside, the décor is pretty standard in a no-nonsense way: too-bright lighting, and a big dining hall packed with round, banquet style seating for family gatherings often engaging in lively and loud banter. From the Beijing-centred menu, their speciality is duck, which is the best value compared to other venues on this list, at HK$280 and capable of serving around four very hungry patrons.
Spring Deer, 1/F, 42 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. Tel: +852 2366-4012.
Unlike some no-frills Pekinese restaurants where chowing down also means talking over high decibel noise alongside glaring florescent lighting, Cuisine Cuisine is spacious, in gentle and seductive lighting and, essentially, it's so peaceful that you won't need to bark at your dining companion. Aside from exuding much class and urbane sophistication, you'll also be pleased by the excellent service. Since this is a modern Chinese restaurant, their Peking duck also gets a mild contemporary spin. Firstly, there's the condiments: alongside the classic sides of sweet bean sauce, scallions and cucumbers, plus other extras such as the sushi-appropriate pickled pink ginger, its tangy sharpness pairs well in balancing the fatty richness of the duck. The pancakes also arrive in different shades and flavours: on one visit it was green or yellow from extra spinach or egg mixed into the ingredients. The duck (HK$380) is exactly how it should be: thin and crisp skin with a juicy white-meat centre. Afterwards, the roasted meat left overs are presented neatly as a hearty main course, bathed in a thin and mildly sweet soy sauce. Eat with the restaurant's excellent fried rice with diced barbeque pork and foie gae (the latter is cubed and deep fried adding a nutty and flavour-rich oomph to this dish- HK$160). Advance order of the duck is required.
Cuisine Cuisine, 3/F, The Mira Hong Kong, 118 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Tel: +852 2315-5222
This provincial Chinese restaurant draws much attention for their steller Peking duck roasted daily in-house, as seen through their several open kitchens. The other attraction is their very old school ritual of eating the duck (HK$580), served in three ways. Three condiments arrive on your table-a sugar, garlic and ginger, and hoisin sauce plus a bamboo steamer full of wafer-thin pancakes. First, the crispy duck skin was sliced onto a plate and eaten with a touch of sugar. Then came the skinless duck breasts dipped into the zingy garlic and ginger condiment. Finally, the chef carved the rest of the duck, with skin and white meat in unison, which we wrapped up in the pancakes with sweet bean sauce, spring onions and julienned cucumbers. The duck's skin was crisp, mildly sweet and fatty at the same time, while the meat in the centre was succulent and tender; hands down as one of the best duck renditions in town.
Sha Tin 18, 4/F, Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin, 18 Chak Cheung Street, Sha Tin
American Peking Restaurant
A local landmark that's been around for nearly 50 years, ignore the misleading name originally coined to lure sailors into the restaurant back in the day. Even now, this establishment attracts a more international crowd than a local one. The room is relatively intimate and quiet compared to no-frills dining halls. There's also good service especially when the long-serving old-timer waiters mean they know the menu inside out, which by the way, hasn't changed much since it opened. To this day, the restaurant consistently serves excellent Beijing style food, including the classic Peking duck cooked to perfection by skilled chefs. The staffs here also know how to carve it expertly, served with warm pancakes to wrap in. Whilst waiting for this dish, order from their broad Beijing-focused menu which is also dotted with local and Sichuan dishes. Try the spicy, crispy beef shreds to be stuffed in unleavened sesame seeds-studded bread pockets for two people portion). Another favourite is the sizzling hot plates, including the beef with spring onions; you can tell it's coming when a trail of hissing sounds, spewed from the grumbling meat on the hot iron dish, is heading to your table. Just before the waiter pours the sauce in, you're also encouraged to indulge in the local habit of hoisting up the linens to prevent the contents of the sizzling plate spitting at you.
American Peking Restaurant, 20 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai. Tel: +852 2527-1000.
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