Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dadong - Duck down, Beijing

Peking duck at Da Dong
According to my dad - back in 2010 or so - when in Beijing, we should skip the "classic" Quan Ju De and go to Dadong instead. That's a rule we (and I, when I've gone to BJ without him) have followed. This time, because I needed a baseline with which to compare Made in China, we found ourselves in Dadong again. Only this time, Dadong wasn't how we remembered it.

Indian lettuce salad
It was just the two of us, so we didn't order much - ahem - just a veg to start, two appetisers and half a Peking duck. The veg was Indian lettuce, something we call "oil wheat vegetable" 油麥菜 in Chinese. I only learnt the common English name when I was trying to translate the seasonal calendar for local Hong Kong vegetables. And I only learnt this time that you could eat them raw, like, well, lettuce. This was uber crisp, and sweet with freshness - great stuff.

Goose liver 'cherries'
Do these look familiar? Pretty blatant rip-off, in my humble opinion, and I like the original ones from Amber better, not just on moral grounds, but the ones pictured above were much too soft and mushy, and the red glaze was sticky and possessed no flavour of its own. It was as if they'd been left out in the sun to slowly disintegrate (and weren't very good in the first place). I do appreciate, however, them trying to use the whole duck, that is, if they used the livers from the ducks they roast for Peking duck.

Spread of Peking duck accompaniments
As you can probably tell from the bizarre purplish hue in my photos, this Dadong was pretty done up. This one was in the complex next to the recently-renovated Imperial Grainary - a complex of preserved heritage buildings, with some hideous faux ones added in, of course. Suffice to say the area was done up, as was this Dadong, as was this platter of condiments.

Carving the duck
The Peking duck itself had a great skin. Crisp, light, a little fatty, like potato chips, but rich with the flavour of duck fat - about 100 times better than duck fat fries though, as the sort of layered crispness poultry skin can achieve is way beyond what a potato is capable of. No offense Mr. Potato.

But apart from the skin, the rest of it was pretty ordinary, even tough and dry in parts.

Deep-fried beef meatballs
Our second appetiser came as a surprise. These were "northern" style deep-fried meatballs. The only thing really "northern" about them was the cumin-laced salt, I reckon. They were great nonetheless, juicy inside, nice and dry (not at all greasy) on the outside. We couldn't finish these, so we packed them to go, and they came into good use for our alcohol-inflicted friend when she stumbled back that night... ahem.

Duck burger that I assembled
With the duck, we got the usual crepes but also little baked pockets sprinkled with sesame. I tried my best at assembling a duck burger...

We tried to plate the burger fine dining style...
And failed.

Fancy fruit
As with most restaurants, I think rapid expansion has eroded its greatness. The decor and presentation have become fancier, but the food is definitely not as great as I remember it (and having been to Dadong many a time in the past few years, I'm not just waxing nostalgic). Next time, I'm going to make sure I go to the now-famous duck dump, Liqun. And I think I might give Quanjude another chance (on the way to Dadong a taxi driver scoffed at our choice and suggested Quanjude instead, and I'm intrigued).

Da Dong
G/F, 22 Dongsi Shi Tiao
+86 10 5169 0329

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