Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant, Beijing

Da Dong is said to serve one of the very best roast ducks in Beijing, which made it a must-visit during my stay in the capital. Starting from a little restaurant, Mr Dong’s empire now extends to Shanghai, and counts many a Da Dong’s around BEijing The two we tried, had an identically high level of cooking, even if the decoration was decidedly different in each. Food is as cheap as anywhere in China, provided you’re used to European prices. Service was present in impressive numbers and good throughout the whole meal.

Starting directly, we ordered marinated jellyfish. The pieces were well seasoned, with a nice balance between sour/sweet elements, and had an intriguing texture. It was somewhere in between the crunchiness of squid, or cucumber and something much more gelatinous. Hard to describe with words, but very interesting, and quite likeable to be honest. It was my first pleasant encounter with jellyfish, but I was assured that it was a very capable preparation. Very good.

A few beans with some tiny, dried, and crispy shrimp were another light, tasty and refreshing little dish, that proved to be a very nice starter.

But, suddenly things became much more interesting. Our waitress approached us with a bucket, containing a living, rather active fish. After having shown us the product, she took it away again, and a good 15min later we were served an incredible fish soup. The meat was perfectly, but really perfectly cooked, the stock very light, but intensely flavoured, with a few herbs, and other elements I probably can not identify. It was a remarkable dish, truly beyond what I expected.

However, this was all fine, more than fine in fact, but the reason for most people’s going here is not any of the above but the Peking duck. Incredibly complicated in preparation, it is elevated to something quite special in this restaurant. If you want more information about how it is prepared, go and watch Heston Blumenthal’s “In Search of Perfection” about Peking duck, as he visits Mr Dong too. In addition to the classical servings, one also gets some crunchy, hollow buns here, which are very tasty and go rather well with the duck meat. However, they are only by-standers, as the real stars are the skin and juicy meat. The latter are of such perfection, that I don’t know how this can be any better. If Made in China’s duck was worth a good 3*, this was well worth the invention of a fourth one (apparently Duck de Chine is even better, have to try that next time!). Divine, perfect.

This lunch was a bomb, finishing off with some beautiful fruit, we were more than happy and completely blown away. Never ever have I been fortunate enough to eat meat that was well-done, but kept the flavour, juiciness and had such an outrageously gorgeous skin. A true masterpiece, worth the flight from Europe to Beijing. What I began to question was, why people see China as a minor food destination. So far the food I got here was top notch. They might not have restaurants like Osier, Quintessence or Beige in Tokyo, but the Chinese food served here, is on an impressive level.

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