March 8, 2012

The best Peking duck in Taipei

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Tonight I finally did it.  I returned to Song Kitchen (宋廚菜館) after almost 8 years.  The place is legendary among Peking duck lovers, which means the restaurant is always packed full of hungry diners.  It is quite possibly the hardest reservation to secure in Taipei.  The reservation "system" is open once a month on the first of each month, where diners can call in to reserve a table for a date in the next calendar month.  So our table tonight was actually reserved on February 1st, just over a month ago...  Now why does this remind me of the reservation system for El Bulli?

Chinese cabbage salad (松柏常青) - on the house.  Nice and refreshing, with crunchy peanuts and a little Chinese parsley for kicks in addition to cabbage hearts.

Rice flour skin tossed with sesame sauce (兩片皮) - the flat strips were tossed together with a generous serving of sesame sauce, along with strips of cucumber, shiitake mushrooms, ham and egg.  Nice.

Pan-fried tofu (鍋塌豆腐) - texture was good... soft center with a layer of batter that's browned and slightly soggy.  But this was too heavy on the salt... or maybe they're staying true to the "northern" flavors and I'm just no longer used to the kitchen being so heavy-handed.

Scallion pancakes (蔥油餅) - pretty good, but I only had a quarter so I could save room for the duck...

Stir-fried cabbage (炒高麗菜)

Kung pao chicken (宮保雞丁) - also a little heavy-handed, I thought...

At this point the first of our two roast Peking ducks (烤鴨) arrived.  Yes, we ordered TWO.  I was also glad to see the boss carving the duck for us, since it was said that the son-in-law just isn't as skilled with the knife...

There's good separation between the skin and the meat here, with some pieces of skin served with a small amount of meat underneath.  The skin was wonderfully crispy on the surface, and the fat underneath just had such amazing flavors... especially when the liquid fat started to ooze out after pressure was applied.  I fell in love with this duck instantly.

The lean meat was also very delicious, fairly succulent and tender.  It's good to see how the meat retained its moisture, as a lot of steam was seen rising up from the duck as it was being carved.

Deep-fried pig intestines (清炸肥腸) - sooo good... Was it any surprise that the Frenchies at the table all dug into this dish?

Our second duck arrived, and this time the son-in-law took his turn wielding the knife.  To be honest, I didn't pay too much attention to see whether the texture of the meat suffered... All I know is that I had more opportunities to have some incredibly delicious and crispy/fatty skin!

Stir-fried duck rack (醬爆鴨架) - the second course of our roast duck... Not a lot of meat here, but pretty tasty nonetheless.  A little big of chili provided some kick that numbed my lips pretty quickly, even though it wasn't that spicy on the tongue.  The use of local basil (九層塔) gave the distinctively anise flavor that surprised some of our Frenchies...

Duck bone soup (鴨架酸菜湯) - the third course of the duck feast, the bones - with some meat still left on them - are cooked with suan cai (酸菜, pickled Chinese mustard) and glass vermicelli.  On a night like this, when it's drizzling and the temperature is dropping, a hot bowl of soup is just what the doctor ordered.

I have to say that of the various roast Peking ducks I've tried in town over the last few months, this one wins hands down, and by a pretty wide margin, too.  I'll need to introduce Last-Minute Uncle to this place, although given his habit of never making advanced reservations, he's got no hope of coming here on his own...


Michelle Chin said...

Except el bulli is closed?

Alfred said...

Hola! I’ve been following your website for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the great job!
Roast Duck


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