Some high cholesterol, finger-licking chow was the order of the day as we marched down to the famous Da Dong Peking Duck Restaurant (大董烤鸭店), well-known for its relatively healthier Peking duck and its unique condiment offerings.
The Peking duck (RMB158), prepared tableside, was presented in front of us in neat, thinly-sliced layers lying underneath a succulent blanket of crisp duck skin. Eight condiments were paired in four different plates; the mandatory sweet sauce came with the strips of scallion, the radish with the cucumber stalks, the pickles with the salted potherb mustard, and lastly, Da Dong’s unique concept of garlic and sugar.
The duck meat was a tad dry and was lacking in the oil-dripping finger-licking quality that I had experienced and was craving for, but I guess that’s part of the “healthier” package Da Dong was renowned for. Didn’t work for me though, as I could have been munching on chicken and there wouldn’t have been much of a difference. The crispy skin that we were advised to dip in sugar, however, was a clear winner and I was an instant convert as the tender, oily skin melted easily in my mouth, the sweet kiss of sugar offering a delightful contrast to the rich creaminess that might have otherwise proved to be too heavy on the palate.
The restaurant provided an option between the traditional pancakes and hollow sesame flour pockets for some carb-accompaniment to the duck; I went with the pancakes as the flour-to-meat ratio was too high for the pockets to be my cup of tea. I wrapped scallion sticks, pieces of duck meat, topped with a generous douse of the thick, sweet sauce in the thinly rolled pancake; each bite was satisfying with the spicy kick of the scallion packing in a fiery punch that perfectly punctuated the succulent, cloying juice that oozed out. Yum, I like.
We ordered some other dishes, deep fried oysters (RMB48) that did not appeal to me – their breaded exterior was soft and had long since lost its crunch definitely looked like it had seen better days, the oysters were retained in whole within the crust and these were smooth and flavorful, but slightly fishy for my taste. The sauteed goose liver in black paper with fresh mushrooms (RMB68) were good, but I am not in a position to comment on the superiority of the materials used as this was my first attempt at goose liver – these little chopped bits of cholesterol bombs mixed well with the mushrooms and I could have gladly used a bowl of rice to soak up the sauce, but it was more of a mushroom herb taste with lots of dark sauce than anything else. My favorite was the braised cabbage with chestnut(RMB40) – the delightful soup was thick and the sweet taste of the chestnut complimented the subtle tones of the cabbage, I don’t usually like sweet soups but this worked for me.
Dessert, glutinous rice roll with red bean baste (RMB12), was one of Beijing’s famous delicacies, but was nothing to write home about. It was sweet and satisfying, but nothing special. I was in love with the frozen persimmons though, compliments of the chef which were round scoops of sorbet-like goodness bursting with ripe swirls of persimmon meat; served in a cocktail glass, this was refreshing and left a pleasant, clean aftertaste that reduced the uncomfortable effects of the heavy and rich meal.
Verdict? I liked it, but nothing was special enough for me to be back in a hurry.