April 15, 2012

Lame duck

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The birthday celebration continues, and tonight I had the opportunity sample cuisine from the famed DaDong Roast Duck (北京大董烤鴨店) for the first time.  This is the second year that the Mandarin Oriental has invited the restaurant to showcase their cuisine at Man Wah (文華).  I was invited to attend a preview/tasting last year, but was unable to attend as I was scheduled to be in mid-air - on the very day of the massive Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.  I was therefore very glad that I happened to be in town this time around.

Tigger ordered the Chef Dong's Signature Dinner set for us, which I suppose is their "greatest hits".  Unfortunately I was in the middle of a crisis tonight, and this severely affected my attention span as well as my mood and my palate.  It also put a little damper on the mood of everyone else at the table...

Sliced Canadian geoduck clam with Sichuan pepper (鮮花椒燴加蚌) - pretty nice, even though I normally don't care for geoduck.  The subtle flavors of Sichuan peppercorns (花椒) was pretty nice.

Crispy mushroom in tomato (蕃茄脆菇沙拉) - not bad, I guess.

Lotus root with osmanthus and foie gras (桂花糖藕配鴨肝) - very nice balance of flavors and fragrance.

Braised cod fish maw with saffron sauce (紅花汁燴花膠) - the fish maw was very, very soft and tender… and I really liked it.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to detect any saffron in the thick sauce, but maybe my palate's having an off day...

Chef Dong's braised sea cucumber (董式燒海參) - this was really, really good.  I thought the sea cucumber's texture was just about perfect - soft and tender enough, yet not overcooked to the point of being mushy.  The spring onions on the side were caramelized and sweet.

Boston lobster noodle with traditional Beijing bean paste (老北京炸醬配波士頓龍蝦面) - pretty interesting… this.  The noodles were made with lobster stock, giving them that distinctive orange color and flavor.  There were also broad bean sprouts (蠶豆芽), which I'd never had before.

The noodles were taken with heavily-seasoned bean paste, as well as a more delicate alternative made with eggplant and shiitake mushrooms.  A single lobster claw was included in the dish, but alas this was a little overcooked.

Sautéed jellyfish with broad bean (烹炒蜇頭春豆) - I found this pretty enjoyable.  Done with vinegar and garlic.  Very tasty.

I can't remember the name of this fried rice, but I found it to be mediocre.

Da Dong "super lean" roast duck (大董酥不膩烤鴨) - FAIL.  What a disappointment!  The whole point of this meal - or at least the highlight - was the duck, but the duck was probably the one thing that just didn't impress me.  The skin was just not crispy, and the oil dripping from the duck ended up making the skin a little soggy.  The meal was reasonably soft and tender, but lacking in flavor.  Most of all, it didn't smell like a yummy duck that had just been roasted.  None of that fragrance.

The chef came out from the kitchen and explained to us that while the ducks were shipped in from Beijing, they weren't able to use wood from fruit trees as fuel in the roasting process.  This resulted in the ducks lacking in the smoky fragrance, as well as the ducks being over-oily.

Traditional sweet pancake with soya milk ice cream and chocolate hawthorn (老北京糖餅配豆漿冰激淩, 糖油條片佐山楂巧克力) - I've never had the traditional pancakes before, but these were just OK.  The soya milk ice cream was kinda interesting, as was the hawthorn chocolate.

On my advice, Tigger brought along a bottle of 1985 Joseph Drouhin Chambertin.  This was just nice to go with the duck.  The nose was a little sweet and fruity, a little smoky, with tea leaves like Pu Er (普洱).  Relatively light-bodied, which isn't surprising given my limited but less-than-impressed experiences of Drouhin's wines.  But I enjoyed the wine and the pairing.  I wish I was in better shape to appreciate it more than I did today.

Despite the disappointment with the duck, I found the meal very enjoyable.  I had some inkling of the modern and creative cuisine of Da Dong from reading past posts from fellow bloggers, and I was happy to have tried it for myself.  Maybe one of these days I'll actually make it up to Beijing and get the real duck.  For now, my favorite Peking duck is in Taipei.

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