July 6, 2022

Yilan hop 2022 day 1: Peking duck sushi

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Years ago when I heard a friend heap praise upon the roast Peking duck at Silks Place Yilan (蘭城晶英酒店), I wasted no time in making a booking to try it out. While there were a few things I didn't like about that meal, I thought a few of the dishes were truly outstanding. I even thought the duck sushi was one of the best things I ate that year, and possibly merits a visit to the Red Lantern (紅樓) restaurant just by itself.

So when we decided to come to Yilan this week, I decided to make a return visit to the restaurant. After all, Sankala has never tried this Peking duck. Due to our smaller group compared to my last visit, I chose to reserve just the basic Cherry Valley roasted duck cuisine in five ways (櫻桃霸王鴨五吃).

As we were coming on a week night and not on a busy weekend, we were able to be seated within the restaurant proper instead of being shoved into the big function room. The level of service, though, didn't seem to be much different. Every single table was here to have the duck, which meant that a certain number of courses were being served across a large number of tables. The service has become factory assembly line-like, which is to say very mechanical.

I also ordered up a couple of extra dishes since there were no vegetables included in the set, and also got some fried rice in case dad didn't feel full after just the duck.

Fried rice with spring onion (蔥花炒飯) - WTF?! In what world is it acceptable for the fried rice to be served FIRST and not LAST in any Chinese meal?! Well... I guess we were hungry so we made sure dad got some food in him before the duck arrived. He IS, after all, known to get hangry...

Roasted duck nigiri (櫻桃鴨握壽司) - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR! The whole reason why we made the trek from our hotel back to the city for dinner. And this time around we could each have two pieces.

So the second time around, the amazement at how delicious this can be is gone. I knew this would be great so it's no longer a surprise, but it is still undeniably tasty. The oil being squeezed out of the crispy duck skin as one bites down, which then gets soaked up by the rice and works its magic with the vinegar in the rice. In the middle of all this comes a layer of grilled cheese... and the result is a smile on my face.

Combination of stewed duck tongue, wings, and flippers (香滷鴨小拼) - the bits from each duck, which I was happy to nibble on.

Sliced duck meat and skin wrapped in a light scallion crepe (片皮鴨捲三星蔥餅), white version - these pancakes were thicker and came with bits of spring onions rolled into the dough. Additional fried segments of spring onions were wrapped together with the duck. The "spicy miso (辣味增)" was substituted for the traditional sweet bean sauce (甜麵醬), so the flavor profile was a little different. Still pretty good.

Sliced duck meat and skin wrapped in a light scallion crepe (片皮鴨捲三星蔥餅), green version - these pancakes were much thinner and were made with the greens of the local Sanshing spring onions (三星蔥).

Stir-fried vegetables with duck fat: white water snowflake (鴨蔥油拌高纖蔬菜:水蓮) - Sankala and I love this crunchy veg so I wasn't surprised when she asked for it. Tastes even better when covered in duck fat.

Double-boiled duck bone soup with Chinese cabbage (慢火白菜煲鴨湯) - I do like the duck bone soup here, and they sure used a ton of bones to make the soup base. Very milky and tasty. I tried my damndest to fish out every single piece of duck which still had skin attached.

Lettuce wrap with shredded duck and vegetable (生菜包鴨絲) - I chose another preparation for this course on my last visit, so I figured I should try the lettuce wrap this time. The stuffing was shredded duck, bean sprouts, and also strips of apples. Not bad.

I also make sure to strip the meat off the legs which were served to us on a separate plate. For her part, mom asked for the duck's ass - which are normally thrown out by restaurants and not served to guests. She insisted on getting it as she felt entitled to it, and the staff relented. Apparently she grew up eating them...

It wasn't a dining experience worthy of Michelin stars, but I was still pretty happy that we came back. The duck nigiri is still worthy of a trip here, at least once every few years.

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