dadong roast duck restaurant beijing china....yes, that really is the name
Here's the thing when you go to China, you can't get on ANY social media. No Facebook, No Instagram, No Twitter, No tumblr no nothing. Seems they are all blocked over here. I can't post any of the photos I've taken in and of the moment like I was hoping to. I can't even get on Google to check my gmail--they are blocked too. Yahoo, I get onto, though weirdly, I can't get on to flickr, which is actually owned by them. It's my own fault I guess as I should have checked things out first. I figured I also wouldn't be able to get on my blog and post stuff either, but oddly enough, here it is. It seems to be my only social media out (FOR THE NEXT 17 DAYS!) at the moment, thus I will have to live with it--and some super average to slow wifi.
In any event, this is my first post, but I'm not sure how many I'll be able to do as we move further inland tomorrow and by the end of the week we will be on a boat which we've already been told, has no wifi. Ugh--withdrawl! Now that I've gotten that out of the way.
On our first night in Beijing, we got in early enough that we were able to check out a local place that came recommended to the SO from on of their co-workers. It is called DaDong Roast Duck Restaurant (if they have a webiste, I couldn't find it). First time I heard the name I had 80's flashbacks to the movie "Sixteen Candles". There's a character in it, and, well, you should just Google it, because I currently can't.
After getting the hotel to call us a cab, we took an adventurous ride through the city, at night, where stoplights seem to be just a suggestion. After a few near misses, we made it mostly unscathed to our destination.
First note, we probably should have made reservations. The place was jumping with what seemed like mostly locals and some of us tourists who stood out just a bit. The hostess ladies were working hard at checking folks in but their English was minimal and our Chinese was non-existent. We got a slip of paper with lots of writing and a number and eventually figured out we'd have to wait to have it called. But how long we weren't entirely sure. Eventually I overheard someone translating for their group and the word was at least 30 minutes. Which turned into 40 when we finally were seated.
It's kind of a fancy-ish higher end restaurant with a seemingly 90's modern look. Lots of black lacquer table tops and chrome abounded. You are then handed a ginormous menu that's 2 feet long and has as many pages as a book.
Fortunately for us, we got a (designated?) server who spoke English (yes, lazy Americans we are) and she guided us through the menu and selections. Of course this place is know for the roast duck and we couldn't not get it. Plus, we threw in a few more things and were also surprised with a couple things they toss in too at the end of the meal. First things first--the duck!
I'm guessing, since this place is know for this dish, they have ducks in back on continual roast. This means you don't have to wait very long before a chef in white hat brings the whole duck out to your table and carves it up before you. Though, for as big as the duck seemed, the above was all we got. To us it looked like there was still a lot of meat left, but it wasn't like we could argue the point. It is served with steamed rice flour pancakes (like really thin tortillas) and a compliment of fillings.
Black olives, pink pickled cabbage (I think), sliced cucumber and radish, shredded scallion, hoisin sauce, garlic paste and sugar. You basically take the pancake, add the duck and then any of the above fixings to make a mini duck taco. The duck was juicy and fatty and cooked tender. I could eat it just by itself. Some of the things above merely work to add extra crunch. The hoisin and garlic kind of take charge over the duck so it's best to use sparingly. There were four of us and there was enough meat at least that we got two little duck roll-ups each. The skin was also a little extra crispy, like crackling, and we were told to lightly dip it in the sugar. Seemed odd, but it does come together in an almost salty sweet way that I liked, though I couldn't eat more than a few strips this way as the flavor does lose something as the meat cools off. Think of it more as a delicacy meant to be eaten in small portions. (Even for me!) From our stand point we all liked the duck which may not be saying much since it isn't like we eat this a lot. But it tasted good and wasn't overcooked, which makes it a winner either way.
One dish we also got was spicy shrimp. When it hit the table this was pretty much Kung Pao shrimp with the peanuts, red chilis and green onion. The shrimp was cooked well and there was just the slightest bit of sweetness to offset the just right spicy hot but the sauce for me was too thick and gloopy. I guess maybe we were expecting something we couldn't get at home but it was like things I've had in SF. Not bad, bad, but not really exciting or traditional Chinese. We'll chalk this one up to not knowing enough beforehand to choose properly.
We also got asparagus since we felt we needed some kind of vegetable for the meal to counteract the fatty duck.
It's asparagus, it was sauteed, it was green, it was a little crunchy, it was lightly salted. We all liked the asparagus. That about covers it.
Seems this place likes to finish with a flourish of dishes that are just included in the whole meal experience. The first was a creamy yellowish broth that tasted like duck, leading me to believe it is stock created from the duck leftovers. I wasn't the biggest fan of it. Tasted a little off and salty and two slurps was enough for me. Next came what they called roasted black sesame seed. She didn't really clarify or state if this was a form of soup or pudding or what? It was thick like an oozy paste and looked like tar. It is also a distinct taste that not everyone, including myself, is gonna enjoy. The SO was mostly okay with it, though they will eat/try most anything. The rest of us weren't all that into it. It had a mini sweet taste to it, but the texture was rough, sludge like and just unappealing on many levels. I can only imagine there is a vat of this in back, bubbling like a witches caldron as they scoop the blobs into bowls. Just no.
This was more show than anything. They finish you off with iced strawberries on top of a pool of billowing dry ice and water. We'll call this a final palate cleanser after the heavy sesame pool. No technique or cooking skill is really involved. Here it is all about presentation. Plus I think they are hoping the sweet and the look will help you forget about the two bowls of dreck you had before this. Unless one is allergic to strawberries, I will say they do seem like a good fruit to end a meal on.
When you go to a place known for a specialty, usually, it is always best to get that dish. In this instance we did and it was the best of the lot, though the portion is on the small side. Service here, like most restaurants in China, is fast and efficient. You know, gotta move 'em in and out! Nothing wrong with that, but I supposed we are used to more of a personal interaction with servers in the states. Then again, they are not working for tips in China making it more about how many you serve as opposed to how well. Not a bad thing mind you, just something to get used to. In China food terms, the place is a tad pricey. For the four of us, with drinks, it was just over $100US. Kind of like a mid-range restaurant night out around San Francisco, but without the glasses of wine.
I guess if you are coming for a visit, it is as good a place as any to give the roast duck a try. There seem to be innumerable places in town to get this dish so you could probably also ask around as I'm sure folks have there favorites here like we do for barbecue or hamburgers in SF. DaDong (yep, still makes me laugh) came recommended by a local to us, so it does have a couple things going for it. And as I said, we aren't experts in roast duck or anything, but we thought theirs tasted pretty good.