After a discussion of Peking style duck at a recent dinner party, a few friends and I traveled to San Gabriel to try the dish at Beijing Duck House.
The restaurant has a rather large a la carte menu filled with interesting sounding dishes. There are also two set menu options. It was fortunate our group included several Mandarin speakers, because the set menus are only available in Chinese. At first, we wanted the $100 menu. However, upon ordering, the waiter gave us a bewildered look and informed us that it would be far too much food for our group of five. Thus, we went with the 11 course $78 menu, plus a huge pitcher of beer for $7.
We were quickly served four appetizers. First, was a plate of very deeply flavored smoked fish. We were also given our first three duck dishes: duck liver, duck webs, and duck necks. The liver had a very strong flavor, but lacked the delicacy of foie gras. the necks were sort of plain, but the webs were one of my favorite courses of the night. They didn't have much flavor on their own, but were seasoned with wasabi.
Soon after a whole duck appeared near our table and was expertly carved by one of the servers. We were given a nice plate of Peking style duck meat with the traditional accouterments of wrappers, cucumber, daikon, green onion, and duck sauce. This was what we had come for, and it did not disappoint. The skin was crisp and the meat was deeply flavored and enhanced by the duck sauce. The vegetables provided a nice crunch and balance to the strong flavors.
Next up was a mixed seafood dish with fish, octopus, scallops, and shrimp. This was by far my least favorite dish and seemed like something you could get at any Americanized Chinese restaurant. However, it did include wonderful wood ear mushrooms.
Following the seafood, we were given this dish of egg, bok choy, jujube, and straw mushroom. It was a good relief from all of the meat.
Next was a very richly flavored and very tender braised pork belly. Really good. My apologies for the out of focus picture.
Outside the duck based dishes, this was my favorite. It consisted of pan fried fish and tofu in a spicy sauce with Sichuan peppercorns. The peppercorns gave this a really unique flavor. It was great over white rice.
The remaining bits of meat were shaved off the bones of our duck and returned to us sauteed with bean sprouts. This was served nice and hot and had a nice, delicate flavor and crunch from the sprouts.
For our final course, the duck bones were used as a base to make a huge bowl of duck soup with tofu and bok choy. This was a simple and very satisfying dish and a wonderful way to end the meal. We took most of it home, and it was even better the next day.
Of course, since we were in the area, we had to stop at Fosselman's for ice cream on our way home.