Five Happiness: Duck, Duck, Duck Chowdown Report (and Dessert Creations at Hui Lau Shan)
Tonight 22 chowhounds gathered at Five Happiness in San Francisco for a duck trifecta: tea-smoked duck, Peking duck with pancakes and tianmian jiang (TWO per table!) and eight treasures stuffed duck. This was a farewell and send-off for our comrade de chow, “Dave MP”, who is leaving San Francisco for life abroad.
The meal kicked off with a gorgeous cold appetizer platter featuring jellyfish, spicy calamari, five-spiced beef shank, mock duck tofu skins, and drunken chicken (boneless). Tea-smoked duck served with hoisin sauce was up next. Then the Peking duck with separate slices of skin and meat, thick and chewy pancakes, slivers of the whitish part of the scallion, and tianmian jiang. Slippery, lightly gingered silk squash (aka loofah or Chinese okra) provided a vegetable interlude. Then egg whites stir-fried with chopped shrimp topped with a tiny mince of Virginia ham was served with a carafe of zhejiang black vinegar to add an accent. The Shanxi knife-cut noodles were even better than at my lunch time visit. This was followed by the stuffed duck nestled in a layer of lotus leaves fragrant from the steamer. The last course was the duck soup, made from the carcass of our Peking ducks, augmented with Napa cabbage, squares of firm tofu and lots of fresh ginger. “dordogne” provided tangerines for a sweet finish for our table.
Winewise, our table enjoyed the 2006 von Hövel Scharzhofberger Spätlese with the cold platter. Then the 1982 Chateau l’Arrosee St. Emilion, which I brought thinking it might be Dave’s birth year . . . but I missed it by a month. This took a while to open up and I was wishing for more fruit to go with Peking duck’s sweet condiment though it was beautiful on its own. We also had the 2007 Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel and 2006 Perrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone.
Tab for our table including corkage, tax and a generous tip came to $24 per person, what a steal. We also had a celebrity sighting, which I’ll leave to ChowFun to report. Did I forget anything? Please tell us your favorites of the night, and let's hear from the other table.
Then the diehards took a second spin of parking roulette in the Richmond District and decamped for Hui Lau Shan aka Creations Dessert House. A table for eight was waiting for us. I’ll let someone else describe dessert.
Creations Dessert House
5217 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118
4142 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118
I am still very full from this wonderful send-off dinner - it was a huge success. Though i must say, 8 ducks for 22 people is really quite a lot of duck!
The appetizer platters were beautiful, and everything was very good - this may be the best cold appetizer platter I've ever had. My favorites were the calamari - nice and tender, in a sweet/spicy sauce, and the mock chicken. But the drunken chicken, jellyfish and beef were all quite good too.
The tea smoked duck was really good, perhaps my favorite item of the night and definitely my favorite of the 3 (technically 4) ducks. The fatty parts had a melt-in-your-mouth texture, the skin was nice and crispy, and the smokiness was great - it reminded me of BBQ ribs, especially when dipped in the hoisin sauce.
Peking duck was good as well - the handmade tortillas are thick, like chapathi. One order was enough for all 11 at our table to have one wrap, so two orders meant that everyone had plenty.
I thought the Shanxi noodles were good, though others seemed to like these more than me. I tasted the egg/shrimp dish from Melanie's table (our table didn't order this) and I thought it was good - a nice complement to the richer duck courses. I don't think that silk squash is my favorite vegetable, but I thought the preparation was good here too.
By the time the eight treasure stuffed duck came, I was already pretty full. I enjoyed the bites of sticky rice that had pieces of sausage the most, and the duck meat was nice here too. Presentation was beautiful, but many of us agreed that the texture of the fat here wasn't as good as in the tea smoked duck.
I enjoyed the soup, though by this point I was *really* full.
I also very much enjoyed my glass of 1982 Chateau l'Arrosee St. Emilion...even though I was born in 1981, it still counts since it was the first harvest I was alive for - I was born in December. :)
I am too tired to report on Creations now too....so I'll also leave that to someone else.
It was very nice to see everyone and to meet some new hounds as well! I'll miss you guys! Thanks again for all the great food advice.
re: Dave MP
I agree on all counts. Lots and lots of duck, and the tea smoked was my favorite. The duck soup at the end was flavorful but not too rich.
I loved the calamari, especially the unique sauce, which struck me as fusion, with an Italian-style tomato-garlic tang upfront followed by a blast of ginger. The Shanxi noodles looked rather unprepossessing, but tasted delicious.
I can't believe I missed dessert, but on the other hand, I really couldn't have eaten any more. Having so much rich duck, the whole meal sort of felt like dessert!
Having been a mere lurker and missing Chowhound meals for some months, I could not have chosen a better re-entry than this duck feast. Adding a few notes: thanks to Melanie for introducing me to the new-to-me loofa(perfectly textured) and egg-white "omlette". And for organizing. And for the exceptional wines--'82 St. Emilion! Are you kidding?
The cold platter was an example of truly artful knifework and I too liked the spicy squid. I missed a more anisey flavor in the beef (and a few blobs of beef gel on top would have helped too) and thought the chicken too obviously shao xingy--but let me admit that I am being picky here. The Peking duck was an example of how you have to be picky to be very critical of this dinner. Skin, defatted and crispy, meat with bits of fat left on, pancakes homemade and perfect when wrapped around duck skin, meat, and with slivered scallion and sauce--which, we were told, was not just hoisin but a blend of sauces. The stuffed duck was more pleasing in the stuffing than in the duck itself. I think that braising, then frying, then steam/roasting is a lot of manipulation for one little bird. But, it was spectacular to see and the stuffing was fabulous.
Great sendoff for Dave. Good luck and good chowing.
Thanks so much, Melanie for organizing, and Dave, we will miss you! I loved this dinner, and woke up this morning still full. The appetizer platter was fantastic, especially the jellyfish and the tofu skins. I liked the texture of the calamari a lot, but found the sauce a little too sweet for my taste. But oh man oh man, that tea smoked duck was incredible. That duck skin was one of the most perfect things that I've eaten in a while -- so crispy and fatty and flavorful, just delicious, and the duck itself was lovely and smoky. I agree that the presentation of the stuffed duck was fun, but the duck itself wasn't as good as it looked -- the skin was too flabby, and the filling, while tasty, didn't taste particularly "ducky" as Melanie said later.
I also loved the knife cut noodles and the silk squash, which was a new to me vegetable, it was nicely refreshing after all of the richness of the ducks.
The desserts afterwards was fun, and though I don't remember everything we had, my favorite at the table was the black sesame ice cream.
First off, pictures to come as soon as I get back to my home computer and download these puppies (my cell phone email function is acting up, today of all days!).
Thank you Melanie for hosting and it was great to catch up whilst making new friends!
I was a big fan of the squid with it's almost Thai flavors, superb knifework, and perfectly resistant bite. While I agree with Al about the rather obvious wineyness of the chicken, I personally enjoyed the little pieces I ferreted out, quite a bit.
The tea-smoked duck was my favorite, with deep, complex flavors infusing every bit of meat and skin. LOVED the tianmian jiang because of the earthy bean flavors that added heft and sophistication to the hoisin sweetness. I tried the Peking duck "nude" i.e. sans pancake, and didn't think it held up solo quite as well as the tea-smoked duck. The bite I had of the duck wrapped in pancake with appropriate garnishes was excellent, though.
I also really enjoyed the shrimp and egg white dish, perfect for a diabetic like me! I'm going to try and hunt down a recipe to add to my quick weeknight meal roster.
Lovely Hovel Spatlese, Melanie! Thank you! Can't wait to enjoy a few more glasses this weekend!
Here are the pictures I took of our dinner. Disclaimer: they were taken on my Blackberry and I'm no photographer to begin with.
In order of appearance, they are: Tea-smoked duck; close-up of yuba skin on appetizer platter (plus gorgeous cucumber garnish); whole Peking duck; 8 Treasure Stuffed Duck.
Lovely to see you again, and thanks for uploading the photos from our table.
My first encounter with the egg white dish was at Jai Yun some years ago, where it was made with abalone. Another excellent version was at Zen Peninsula in Millbrae where the raw egg yolk is nestled in the bed of whites. For both of these, the amount of oil in the dish seems much greater and the whites are in big curds and not so stretched out, so you might want to experiment at home.
von Hövel wine sale