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Aug 21, 2008 09:11 AM

Mark's Duck House - Major Disappointment

My first posting, so forgive me in advance for any errors or if I step on any toes with my first (negative) comment. I have perused this board for years and have been generally in sync with the many postings BUT my recent experience at Mark's Duck House in Falls Church dissapointed me to the degree I had to register to make my opinion public.

I have been to MDH in Bailey's Crossroads, VA once before, for dim sum and found it palatable - then again, I've never been a great fan of dimsum. However, when I recently had a craving for Peking duck, I decided to give Mark's a try over my usual choice, Peking Gourmet Inn, a mile or so away.

I was alone, about 9pm on a Friday night and I ordered a hot and sour soup and a half duck. The soup was bland and starchy to the point I had to ask for hot peppers. The rather taciturn waitress pointed to the container of red chili oil on the table (without the dispensing spoon) and reluctantly brought me a small plate of dried out (as opposed to intentionally dried) small green hot peppers.

Dissapointment enough, but nothing compared to the order of duck that came plopping down on my table. (The duck was not sliced in front of me, as usual at Peking Gourmet Inn). The duck was taken off the bone, skin and fat and meat all in one, and the resulting slab was sliced. That was it. The skin was not crispy, was fatty, and the meat dried out. It was obvious that the plate was from a duck that had been sitting prepared under a heat lamp for a while.

I tried to finish the meal (since I was paying for it anyway) but couldn't bring myself to do it and ended up taking most of the meal home (made a decent stir fry out of it the next day) and made my way to Peking Gourmet Inn where I got the usual friendly service, perfectly prepared Peking duck sliced (and fat scraped off the underside of the skin) in front of me.

I don't mean for this to sound like a commercial for Peking Gourmet Inn but I was just astounded at the lack of service and the horrible duck at a restaurant called Mark's DUCK house - especially when all posts I've read here on chowhound are so complimentary.

So... a little counter point to the usual accolades, I suppose.

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  1. Didn't they get sold about a year ago?

    6 Replies
    1. re: chowsearch

      THAT would explain a lot if it were true.

      Same with Thai Square - it used to be my favorite Thai restaurant in DC/N. VA area - with the crispy squid as my favorite dish.

      I went there for the last time about three months ago and I noticed that: 1) the crispy squid w/ basil was chewier and not as crisp or delicate as it has always been; and THEN I noticed that 2) all the faces in the restaurant were new (I'm kidding, I noticed the new faces but I just figured that they had some new staff).

      1. re: arlingtonstomache

        I've never been a fan of MDH, but a small group of us had an impressive meal at Thai Square recently ordering off the Thai menu. Sour curry, fish maw salad, roast duck soup, sauteed greens, all delicious.

        1. re: Steve

          steve, what dishes are on thai, but not english, menu? all you mentioned? what others?

          1. re: alkapal

            Since we were relying on the help of our waitress (no language skills at our table), we pretty much went with her suggestions based on our interests. So I don't remember any other dishes she mentioned. But it is an extensive list.

          2. re: Steve

            Did you find the dishes at Thai Square superior to those at Bangkok Garden?

            1. re: crackers

              Yes, this was a more enjoyable meal than at Bangkok Garden. Based on a small sample, of course, but I thought it was more exciting. Plus we actually got good help from the waitress. Maybe a Thai Square first!

      2. i'm off of mdh, too. my friend took me for dim sum lunch last december. we also ordered a la carte. my lo mein with mixed meats: the noodles were broken! i told the waitress that was bad luck on my birthday, as if she understood what i said. and the weird "meats" included pig heart. i haven't been back yet. my friend was not impressed.

        i want an alternative, cause i think mdh has gone downhill. plus, its not inexpensive.

        1 Reply
        1. re: alkapal

          Looks like we were wondering about it back in January, all I know is Mrs. Mark wasn't there last summer on two visits and it it was less warm, more hard-edged management:

        2. Sorry you had a bad experience. I had a great dim sum experience about two weeks ago - the best I've had in quite some time. Of course I did get there very early.

          1. I was there with a group in late spring and I was underwhelmed. We had Peking duck which was really good. However, the other entrees were not very good. Next time, we all went to Hong Kong Palace and had a much better meal--fresher ingredients, more unusual dishes.

            1. Uh, if I'm not mistaken, the Peking Duck is not the specialty at Mark's. It's the softer and lighter duck from another region of China that is the specialty here. Mark's is not a Beijing place.

              6 Replies
              1. re: BigEats

                I believe the "Plum Duck" was on the first page of specials - I have no idea how that is since I was in a Peking duck cravin' mood. Still, even if a dish is not your specialty, you should be able to execute it competently.

                Besides, MDH got rave reviews for its Peking duck on this board, which is why I decided to go off my beaten path.

                1. re: arlingtonstomache

                  You're both right. MDH got good reviews for it's Peking Duck yet it's a Cantonese restaurant. I can't take sides because I would never have ordered a peking duck at a cantonese restaurant. It's possible that it was once good and went downhill, it's also possible that the reviews here aren't very reliable.

                  1. re: Ericandblueboy

                    Mr and Mrs Mark said they were duck purveyors in the ethnic Chinese community in Saigon, moved to Philadelphia and realized many customers came from NoVA to get their ducks, which were required for weddings, so moved to this Chinese/Vietnamese customer base. Story on the new owners or operators is unknown.

                    1. re: chowsearch

                      did the marks retire (i'm presuming)?

                      1. re: alkapal

                        About three years ago, I stopped seeing Mr. Mark. Last summer, I stopped seeing Mrs. Mark, and the other manager/hostess/dress suit types all changed too. There's a post on donrock that says they changed hands in about August 07 with no confirmation or details.

                    2. re: Ericandblueboy

                      I'm actually curious about your comment - being cantonese and knowing that Peking Duck is a pretty common dish for us - where (type of restaurant) in your opinion would you find a better Peking Duck dish?