Dine at the restaurant: Peking Duck offers carefully roasted birds and fine Chinese dishes

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Peking duck
90 George St., 613-860-0888, pekingduck.ca
Open: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Price: half roast duck $48, roast duck $88; sector $18.99 to $65.99
Access: the restaurant is on the second floor, lift available

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Ottawa, it seems, has been waiting a very long time for the Peking duck it deserves.

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Not only did it take more than a year for the newly opened and unambiguously named Peking Duck after signs advertising its impending arrival were posted in the ByWard Market.

A search of this newspaper’s digital archives dating back to 1985 found only fleeting mentions of Peking duck in its restaurant reviews. And the only detailed account I found was far from brilliant.

Tofu and prawns.
Tofu and prawns. Photo by Peter Hum /Postmedia

In 1997, my immediate predecessor wrote of Peking duck at the now defunct Fuliwah restaurant: “The duck skin (was) crispy and salty and good in an unhealthy way. You are supposed to roll pieces of skin and a piece of green onion into a thin pancake which you have first coated with hoisin sauce. Then you lick the grease that runs down your wrists. This is followed by a duck bone platter that you can choose from. The bones were topped with tofu, watercress and mushrooms. The next course was a pretty wimpy duck soup…and finally came a chow mein in which the duck meat was fried with carrots, bean sprouts, scallions and mushrooms. That last dish was the hit of the meal (which isn’t really high praise).”

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Hardly a euphoric endorsement for what should be one of the world’s great roast poultry feasts.

Truffled prawns with asparagus.
Truffled prawns with asparagus. Photo by Peter Hum /Postmedia

Fortunately, this new restaurant on George Street, located on the second floor of what was once the Real Sports Bar and Grill, is helping to restore honor to its titular dish. It also backs up the reputation of its brand, which is actually Quanjude, a Chinese chain of Peking duck restaurants descended from an ancestor in Beijing that opened in 1864.

The chain has grown to include not only several locations in China, but also outposts in Hong Kong, Lisbon, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver and now Ottawa, where large numbers of Chinese expats have settled in recent years. , often after completing post-secondary education in Canada. For them, Quanjude is a known quantity, especially since in China, state banquets and receptions for foreign dignitaries and celebrities were often held at one of the chain’s establishments.

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Sugar duck skin.
Sugar duck skin. Photo by Peter Hum /Postmedia

I don’t know why the restaurant in Ottawa dropped the « Quanjude » from its name. But its menu, a massive bilingual (Chinese and English) hardback book filled with not only lavish photos but also tasting notes, proudly tells Quanjude’s story. Except for its English lettering, the restaurant’s exterior clearly resembles the exterior of the chain’s first location in Beijing.

Although some Ottawa restaurants have had Peking Duck on the menu for decades, it’s actually a multi-course delicacy that requires expertise, equipment and planning in the kitchen. Even at Peking Duck, the whole roast duck (between $88 and $108) must be ordered a day in advance with the table reservation.

Peking duck.
Peking duck. Photo by Peter Hum /Postmedia

That Peking duck here can be ordered with a side of caviar (up to $110 for 30 grams of wild Atlantic sturgeon caviar) indicates this is a place to indulge and spend. However, the renovated, post-sports-bar premises, which are brightly lit and surrounded by a bright red ceiling and walls, were filled with what appeared to be occasional gatherings of family and friends, not dignitaries and of celebrities, rolling duck meat and skin. in their pancakes.

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Let me tell you what we didn’t order before detailing what we ate, as the sprawling menu here features many high-end Chinese dishes from a variety of culinary styles.

We had none of the soups, including the expensive and controversial bird’s nest and shark fin soups. We didn’t have lobster or whole fish, as good as they looked when they arrived at larger nearby tables. We dropped the pigeon, eel and sea cucumber because we didn’t want to lose our focus on the duck. We skipped spicier dishes such as kung pao chicken or shrimp or mapo tofu.

Duck hearts.
Duck hearts. Photo by Peter Hum /Postmedia

We started with the duck offal, having asked for signature appetizers which we were told were not available as the restaurant was still in its soft opening phase.

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While the promise of the salted duck foie gras ($15.99) was reminiscent of foie gras, the simmered slices were a bit chalky and fell short of the menu’s promise of a « tender as gelatin » treat. Better were the duck hearts ($25.99), which had savory flavors and crunchy textures that appealed.

Then came our first waves of Peking Duck ($88), delivered after a waiter pointed out that across the dining room a chef was carving up our bird. (In some Peking duck restaurants, the carvings are made next to the table and we missed that demonstration here.)

Salted duck liver.
Salted duck liver. Photo by Peter Hum /Postmedia

The crispiest duck skin, taken from the bird’s breast, came first, with sugar on the side that we were told was for dipping. Then came a pair of ceramic ducks, loaded with more skin and meat, which we placed in our steamed soft pancakes and topped with scallions and sauce before digging in. Although I had no complaints, other people at my table found the duck a little dry, but not overpowering.

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Three other dishes turned out to be good choices. The sautéed pea shoots with sliced ​​king oyster mushrooms ($25.99) were fresh and tasty. A crab egg tofu stew ($26.99) was soft and delicate but very tasty all the same. Plump and tender shrimp with crispy asparagus and truffle paste ($36.99) were umami-rich treats.

Pea shoots with royal mushrooms.
Pea shoots with royal mushrooms. Photo by Peter Hum /Postmedia

The duck broth, which our menu said would be milky white and rich, was our savory finish. It was a little less ducky than expected, but still a satisfying conclusion.

For dessert, golden duckling-shaped pastries ($21.99) filled with date paste were ordered primarily for their cuteness and Instagram-ability. That said, they tasted better than just novelties.

Overall I thought the experience here with Peking duck was pretty good. While I’ve had arguably better Peking ducks in Vancouver and New York, I’ve also paid a lot more for these birds.

Duck pastries stuffed with dates.
Duck pastries stuffed with dates. Photo by Peter Hum /Postmedia

Even if you have to save a little first, I would recommend this restaurant for both its specialty and its other offerings. Not only is premium Peking duck a long time coming to Ottawa, but the same can be said for fine Chinese cuisine. Peking Duck may be a warp outpost, but it ticks both of those boxes.


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