Best Beijing Duck in Beijing
Coming to Beijing this summer? Skip the touristy Wall (esp Badaling) and head right over to these establishments for the tastiest Beijing Duck in Beijing (any additional suggestions welcome).
1) Made in China - perhaps the most expensive duck but by far the best in my opinion. Not expertly carved (lots of wasted meat), but the nearby open kitchen ensures your duck is hot on your platter (seconds from oven to table). Make reservations or forget about coming. And order the BJ duck in advance as they do run out. As you can see from this blog, the place is sleek, but expect to pay NYC prices for it
2) Duck King (Ya Wang) - preferably the Scitech branch. Crowded, but favored by the expense account crowd. They do a good job with the duck soup at the end which is why I come here.
3) Da Dong - favored by locals in the know, this location at GontiBei Lu and 3rd ring road has lines forming at 630PM. Go early or wait 30 minutes. Also known for great side dishes. Photos are shown here: http://www1.foobai.com/post.php?actio...
4) Quanjude - Mr. Taster does a great review of this place already so I will just link to it and say this is not the best duck, but it is the most famous. Its where dignitaries are taken when they visit Beijing (and the photos are on the walls to prove it). Go to the historical Qianmen location south of Tiannamen. The other branches in Wangfujing and near Hilton Hotel serve mediocre duck in a drab modern setting. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
Whatever you do, avoid Liqun Duck Restaurant like the avian flu. Foobai Beijing restaurant reviews it in more detail than I care to waste my breath on:
Happy eating and let me know if you find other good sources of Beijing duck in Beijing.
I can't comment on Liqun Duck, having never been there, but I definitely take Foobai reviews with a grain of salt (and a bit of liao jiu, soy sauce and MSG too). On the Shanghai section, at least, the reviews seem dominated by by expats with plenty of almost neocolonial "attitude." The review you cited, for example, had about two sentences addressing the food itself in the midst of a long rant about everything in Beijing except the weather (while unmasking the naivete of the reviewer).
Even though I have almost no reading knowledge of Chinese, I find http://www.dianping.com a lot more reliable for assessing restaurants; it's quite easy to get the gist of the comments through machine translation. Even Google's translator works pretty well for this.
Liqun is a wonderful place for roast duck, which I go back to at least every visit in Beijing, which is 3-6 times per year. The reviewer on Foobai is a novice traveler, and who takes out his agression due to his own lack of preparation on the restaurant.
Notes for the wise:
1) Always book well ahead with Liqun, specifically stating how many ducks you will eat. It is a small, and can run out.
2) It is a dive. Know that. You are paying for the home-roasteed ducks, not high rent or fancy tables.
3) Beijing--the whole city--is a "tourist trap" of sorts. You will be bombarded with touts everywhere, scams from drivers of taxis and pedicabs, ripp-offs of every kind. Prepare yourself and don't blame your destination for the pain in getting there. And I know the pain--taxis in China are my own private hell--a place to get cheated with no safe exit.
4) Locals eat at Liqun early, when it is easy to get a table and before all the touts come out. Early means 5-6pm.
5) Later hours tend to be dominated by expats more than tourists. Always book ahead.
Now to the duck specifically:
1) It is more rustic than Dadong, but in my book far better--it is more complex, darker and less sweet.
2) The wrappers are thicker than some, but I think that the flour adds the right complement to the oil of the duck skin.
3) The other food available is also excellent: try the songhua fish, and for huajiao (sichuan flower pepper) lovers, ask for it, and a great gongbaojiding (kungpao chicken) will come. Also a great simple yiqingerbai (Silken toufu with scallion) to sate your hunger before the duck arrives, but without hampering your ability to scarf down all the duck that comes.
On duck accoutrement:
1) It will come with the requisite sauce, cucumbers and scallions. Do not be put off by the small dishes--you can ask for as many replacements as you like.
2) Watch the carving, and ask for anything not automatically given to you. For example, at all duck places you are served the skin and meat, but not the meat that clings to the carcass. Don't let them take the carcass away without asking for the legs. Others love the neck.
3) If you like foie gras, order the duck livers.
4) Instead of trying to wipe the sauce on the wrapper using your chopsticks, pickup the duck with your chopsticks and dredge it in the sauce before placing it in the wrapper.
In my book, Liqun is far superior to Dadong, which puts flash over food, and pushes diners to order absurd amounts of food. Liqun has better flavor, and is happy to let you enjoy your duck in peace, and doesn't care if you don't order any other item. I started going to Liqun in 1998, when it was still an back alley unknown, and still think it better than all the other regulars (Quanjude, Dadong).
I concurr with Gary Soup and Shannonmay!
We like Liqun--we've been there twice and enjoyed both trips. It was made very clear to us by the friend who lives in Beijing that making a reservation was a must, that they only cook so many ducks and without a reservation there was no guarantee. On our visits, the duck was very tasty as were all the side dishes. We were particularly enamoured with a shredded potato/hot pepper dish that I haven't found anywhere else. Last summer we even did a duck taste off between what we view as the People's Quanjude [the small brightly lite place in front, not the fancy place up the driveway] and Liqun. As I recall Liqun won but it was very close.
I read the Foobai review and thought the reviewer was a real novice traveler and didn't sound very familiar with Beijing to boot. Of course, the taxi just drops you off--the streets in that hutong [like many hutongs] are too narrow to drive in. We've never taken a rickshaw to Liqun--we just walked but its clearly marked and well lite.
As for pushy rickshaws, Beijing is FULL to the gills with pushy rickshaws. That doesn't mean you have to ride in them. On our last trip, when looking for Prince Gongs Palace, we were pursued down the street by a stream of pushy rickshaws. My husband finally turned to the drivers and shamed them by telling them they were scaring our kids [actually the pups were annoyed more than anything else]--pretty much every driver hung his head and turned tail. Firmness works well with pushy rickshaw drivers as does learning to say NO in chinese.
OP, eltongore, I have to ask, have you actually eatten at Liqun or are you just relying on the review of this other person?
The shredded potato dish is actually not that difficult to find in Beijing; I had it a few times when I was there. A friend of mine who lived in central China for a year ate it often, so I assume it is a common dish. If you life anywhere near Philadelphia, PA, the Four Rivers restaurant makes an excellent version.
I think Liqun serves fine duck - certainly as good as Dadong or Quanjude and tourists do love the hutong location. I don't think their duck is the best, however, and I eventually stopped going to Liqun, mainly because it started to feel too touristy... it's always packed with foreigners, the owners seemed to be putting more emphasis on garnering publicity than on the food and the whole humble courtyard-hutong thing started to feel a bit Disneyfied. Anyway, Liqun is certainly worth a visit, if only to see the neighborhood, but I would hesitate to sing its praises too highly. The food is nice, but there's better food out there.
Not to turn this into a rag on Liqun post, but I gotta agree w/ Petitpois that Liqun has gone downhill. They market now to the "That's Beijing" crowd instead of focusing on food quality. Any Beijing restaurant with English signs posted outside worries me. As fer food, duck was not moist when it arrived, and not hot either. The skin does not have the "melt in your mouth" quality that I expect when in Beijing. Wrappers far fr delicate, which is OK if you like them thick and dry. I don't. Meat tasted bland. Presentation somewhat sloppy. Side dishes far from great.
I don't have the same long winded taxi complaints that the restaurant reviewer on foobai.com had. But can't argue other pts in that review. I care most about food quality, but can't be critical of people who judge a restaurant based on surroundings or service. Its part of the experience of eating out for some. I routinely and happily eat in many "dumps" in China. I am not put off by this but simple surroundings and dirty are 2 different things. I dont care if there is a squatter, but washrooms should be reasonably clean. Liqun has the opposite and 1 thing I have learned from working in restaurants is that if they can't even keep the washrooms reasonably clean you don't want to know what runs around in the kitchens, which the customers never enter and see.
More to point, I don't know a single local who says Liqun is one of the better places for Beijing duck. Some Liqun customers look at the rundown hutong environment and assume they are getting a local experience and "real" BJ food. One look at the prices should dispense with this notion. You pay Laowai prices but dont even get upscale surroundings that usually come with it.
As for the best places for Beijing duck, local BJ friends suggest a no frills restaurant on the East Gate of Worker's stadium. I didnt go but think its called JiuHuaShan (but not sure)? I rarely bother with lines outside DaDong but think its reliable. Grand Hyatt (i.e. Made in China) serves fantastic duck, but for most probably not worth the premium pricing. If you do not care about price, go there.
On your no frills recommendation, I think you might mean Jin Bai He (Gold Lily) which is just east of Worker's Stadium. The duck is only 58 rmb but the meat is moist and tasty, and the skin crisp. It is also generously carved so you get nearly twice the portion size compared to Dadong (which is tasty admittedly tasty duck but I object to being charged a per person fee for condiments). The other dishes on the menu are less impressive (but more interesting than at Liqun) but it's the perfect place to go if you have a hankering for a quick and delicious duck dinner. I've pasted in my full write up from Savour Asia below:
Beijing Gold Lily Roast Duck Restaurant
北京金百合烤鸭店—Bei jing jin bai he kao yao dian (Jin Bai He, for short)
Chaoyang qu Chaoyang yi yuan bei men zheng dui mian
Directly across from the north gate of Chao Yang Hospital – and very near Sanlitun Bar Street.
Tel: 010-6594 3870
$: Dinner for two including duck and three dishes, 119rmb; whole duck, 58rmb including condiments.
What we think
Great cheap and cheerful duck restaurant. They recently moved (in the fall of 2007) from their original Chun Xiu Street location. For 58rmb, you can have your duck carved into thin slices with skin and meat on each slice. A great value for sure, but also very good duck. The pancakes looked a little doughy and worrisome when they first arrived but they peeled off the pile easily, were thin and even, and held up nicely throughout dinner. With one duck, we put down at least ten wrappers piled high with duck and still had a bit leftover. The accompanying dishes were a touch heavy-handed but overall not bad. For an extra 30 kuai, you can have your duck carved three ways, with some of the skin and meat separate, and some together. The fancier carving also comes with some extra condiments such as sugar in which to dip the separate skin pieces (a Beijing habit).
Huangsandra…. Tried your rec and really enjoyed Gold Lily. We stayed in Beijing and tried 3 different places. Gold Lily was our favorite since the duck meat was tender, skin was crispy, and not at all greasy. Plus the soup (included) they brought out at the end was really flavorful. 45RMB for half a duck with condiments.
Xiang Man Lou (香满楼) was slammed with people and gave the most generous portion of duck meat/skin. We paid 75RMB for half a duck with condiments. The wrapper is much thicker than Gold Lily's. Overall it was still tasty and included soup at the end, albeit on the bland side.
They also give you the duck head on a seperate plate. Are you supposed to eat that?
Our least favorite was Tian Wai Tian. It was just down the street from where we stayed and near the Forbidden City Palace. The duck was noticably greasier and left us feeling a bit heavy at the end of the meal. Half a duck for 45RMB with condiments but no soup included.
I think if you are interested in trying Beijing duck, any of the above places are a good start. Quanjude is 200RMB for a full duck so if you want a reasonable easy meal the ones above are decent.