I love it when restaurants use their specialty eviscerated prey as a mascot. Peking Duck House didn't have a particularly tacky design on their flag—just a good ol' duck wearing a chef's hat—but if you thinking about it long enough (which is apparently something you're not supposed to do), you realize how odd the image is. Is the duck preparing to cook itself? Its friends? Is it just a really stupid duck?
Who cares. Let's get to the good stuff: roasted duck meat. Hooray!
When Christina messaged me saying she was visiting from Paris for a week and delicious fooding was in need, we decided to go to Peking Duck House. About 30 seconds after setting the time and place, I realized that two people probably couldn't eat a whole Peking Duck...comfortably. To help ease the pain, I invited Alice and Olivia, and Christina thankfully also brought Winston—our party of five was just right to defeat every piece of duck, plus a few sides.
I would assume that Peking Duck House provides the best version of Peking Duck in Manhattan's Chinatown. As for all of New York City, the best of any Chinese food tends to come from Flushing. Which is over there (points). I'm usually too lazy to go there, but if you have a burning Peking Duck recommendation for me in Flushing, let it out.
A waiter presented us with our whole roast duck before taking it to the central cutting table where a skilled chef (skilled, I assumed, because he was wearing a big, foofy hat) effortlessly sliced it into even chunks with a long, slender knife.
AND THEN WE HAD DUCK. A big honkin' plate of it, slices neatly arranged around the plate's perimeter. It was almost a shame to disturb the plating...but not really.
I was in heaven from the first bite—the kind of heaven filled with tender, juicy, fatty duck meat accentuated by the crispiest, paper-thin skin I've ever had. But if it were truly heaven, I'd be dead. So instead it was just really moan-inducing, health-depleting delicious, which had something to do with it being the most fatty pork-resembling form of poultry I've ever had. The fat. The fat. It was magical. It's rare that I eagerly eat anything that's 99.9% skin and subcutaneous fat, but I ate a piece or two of that very composition. To me the sweets equivalent of that would be like eating a spoonful of frosting. It's awesome, in small doses.
You're supposed to wrap duck with the accompanying thin pancakes smeared with hoisin sauce and topped with cucumber sticks and scallions, but I was pretty happy just eating the duck straight. All those ingredients went together well though—they made for an awesome burrito-like thing. However, the burrito resemblance wasn't really a good thing—it was mostly due to the pancakes being off-puttingly tortilla-like, too thick and chewy for my tastes. I heard you can ask for buns instead of pancakes though, which would work better.
We offset the duckiness with Chinese broccoli, one of my favorite Chinese vegetable dishes. Granted, I like pretty much any Chinese vegetable dish (mm, oyster sauce!), but I find chomping on the thick broccoli stalks rather satisfying, if they're at the right stage of tenderness: cooked through, still crunchy, not jaw-achingly fibrous. Chinese restaurants always seem to do this right. When I do it at home, I either overcook or undercook. My Chinese heritage does nothing for my cooking skills.
We offset the broccoli with pork dumplings. Uh. ...Yes. The skin was a bit thick, but the filling was also heftier than average. Overall, a good dumpling. I think the only dumplings I don't like are the ones from Chinese take-outs (who makes those monstrosities?—like the bastard child of a dumpling and a bao with a birth defect), but even those can taste awesome when fresh. DUMPLINGS JUST DO NOT FAIL.
After our happy and fattened bodies hobbling out of Peking Duck House, we headed to Teariffic to satiate Olivia's bubble tea craving, which she gets at least once a day. It's not a craving as much as a extra meal her body has become accustomed to expecting.
Olivia fulfilled her bubble tea requirement while I got the wimpiest coconut and peanut butter toast ever. Toast at a Chinese teahouse is supposed to be a monstrously block of wheat, not something you'd make a sandwich out of. This was more like Wonderbread. For a fat, substantial toast, go to Green Tea Cafe down the street.
Alice ordered pineapple cakes, which apparently no one orders as the waiter didn't even know they were on the menu. Thankfully the pineapple cakes didn't taste neglected, but like like normal, tender shortbread-like rectangular blocks filled with sweet pineapple goo. (If you're thinking, "That cake doesn't really look like a cake," I'd say, "...Yeah." I grew up eating loads of pineapple cakes so it rarely occurs to me that they look nothing like what you'd expect something with "cake" in the name to look like. Now you know. I can't think of a better name that's as simple. Pineapple block? Meh.)
Many thanks to my friends, who I failed to optimally photograph, for helping me eat. Without you, I'd be fatter and unhappier.
51 Mott Street, New York NY 10013