Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Roast Duck Empire

Talk about a flashy entrance for one of Beijing's top restaurants!
What's a trip to Beijing without eating Peking duck? And the best place in the Chinese capital to eat it?

Da Dong Roast Duck or Da Dong Kao Ya.

My friends suggested we dine at one of the nine locations I've never been too -- Gongren Tiyuchang Dong Lu, or Workers' Stadium East Road, a block from Sanlitun.

The half portion of roast duck neatly displayed on the plate
I arrived early to find that diners walk a long catwalk into this field with sculpted life-size horses, and in the middle is a "pond" filled with "reeds" that are blue LED lights with a wooden walkway in the middle.

It's very... gawdy which surprised me, as the Dongsishitiao location I used to frequent is in what was formerly the imperial granary, quite a classy place.

But here inside it gets even better. There's a massive screen, almost floor to ceiling (and it's a high ceiling) that shows off many of the gorgeous-looking dishes from his menu, and footage of him giving cooking demonstrations in Europe, hunting for white truffles, and being lauded by laowai, or foreigners.

As a diner facing the screen, it's really distracting to say the least... and there's more horses inside too...

Rapeseed flowers that didn't have much taste
Nevertheless, the food thankfully is still pretty consistent. The menu is a massive tome, a large rectangular book where each page is filled with beautifully-photographed dishes. You kind of need bookmarks to record possible dishes to order, otherwise you'll never find them again.

We ordered the half duck, and as before, it's juicy, tender and the skin isn't too fatty or oily. The pancakes are warm and thin, and we wrap the duck slices with the sauce, spring onions, radish, cucumber, a dab of mashed garlic, and preserved vegetables. They're so addictive that you have to have another one...

A new dish we tried was a massive vegetarian dumpling shaped like a bun, but it's not doughy. Inside was choc full of vegetables and cubed bamboo shoots. This was delicious and the crunchy texture was refreshing.

Braised eggplant with garlic and garnished with flowers
The braised eggplant dish was also a treat, decorated with flowers it was almost too pretty to eat. The slices of eggplant were well seasoned with soy and hoisin, and texture-wise were quite meaty.

However a disappointing dish was one of rapeseed flowers. While they looked pretty on the plate, they didn't have much taste to them, but now we know... it wasn't an expensive dish, but an interesting experiment to try.

Finally we had some mochi filled with durian paste that was fun to eat and the taste of the usually pungent fruit wasn't too intense. The restaurant also served some fresh strawberries that were surprisingly sweet.

Green-coloured mochi filled with durian paste
The chef-owner Dong Zhengxiang is not only a solid chef, but also a smart businessman. So much so that he's ambitious enough to open a Da Dong branch in New York! It will be located in 3 Bryant Park in Manhattan, New York and the rent isn't cheap -- 13,000 square feet there was asking for US$2.3 million per year...

I also heard he is using top quality chinaware with plates that cost 3,000 yuan (US$435) per piece...

Sounds like for Dong, it's go big or go home in the Big Apple...

Da Dong
Beijing Workers' Stadium East Road
Chaoyang District
(010) 6551 1806

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