Hepingmen Quanjude (Beijing) Report
A Chinese friend of ours is visiting from the US and her mom and brother (both also visiting from overseas; they left China years ago) organized a Mid-Autumn Festival dinner for us at Hepingmen Quanjude. I had never been to this location, despite it's being the world's largest duck restaurant (or perhaps because of that) and now I feel like I have not been missing a thing.
First of all, the place really is enormous, with more than 30 dining rooms on four floors. They really churn out the ducks here, too, since during our stay the little carts with the duck on it pushed by the surgical mask-wearing chef never stopped coming out. As one might expect, the quality of the duck in such an industrial venue suffers a lot. The skin was not the least bit crisp, the meat had virtually no flavor, and the prices were stratospheric. The only thing we ordered that we actually liked was a dish of duck liver that was lightly breaded and then sort of fried, but even that I would not rush to order again.
I was recently at the Qianmen Quanjude for a large banquet recently and found the food terrible. The duck was mostly skin with very gristly meat (does duck have gristle?) and the other dishes were forgettable. I was also there a few years ago and the staff pushed a special duck meal for the three of us. The meal was just OK. The bill, without any drinks, came to US$100, which is outrageous for this kind of meal. I've eaten at two Bianyifang branches, and the food was marginally better. Of the places I've been to, Da Dong is fairly decent, and their other dishes are not bad. People, however do insist that the duck at Made in China is truly memorable, and I and my bankbook will defer to those folks. To be honest, Beijing duck is sort of like climbing the Great Wall. You have to do it to say you've been in China, but the experience itself is not terribly memorable.
I don't have an opinion about the best duck in Beijing, but others on this board certainly do. I have liked Duck King (Ya Wang) in the past, and Liqun, and others whose names I don't know. However, despite my fondness for duck in general, I think I just don't like Beijing duck all that much.
James - Thanks for posting your review. My first dinner upon arriving in Beijing was the Quanjude very close to the Beijing Hilton. I was completely underwhelmed with the food and experience at that time, but thought jet lag and disorientation might have something to do with that. (I did have some perfectly cooked, but bland, asparagus.) As a result, I have not been to another Peking Duck restaurant since.
What is your opinion on the best place to go for Peking Duck?