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Anyone ever buy a Whole Roast Duck in Chinatown? ISO advice and recommendations

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For Easter this year, we are going into LA's downtown Chinatown for dim sum for breakfast and then buying a whole duck (the ones hanging in the windows) for Easter Dinner. No one in our family has ever bought one of these before, so I have a few questions:

1. Is there a place that is THE place to get a whole duck? One that is particularly better than the others? What places do you recommend, and what should we look for?

2. Once bought, should I refrigerate it (it will be served about 5-6 hours later) or just leave it on the counter? How does it get re-heated without drying out, or should it be served room temp?

3. Are there any traditional sides we should be making? Right now the plan is stuffing and sweet-and-sour chard (I have a great recipe for this). I'm totally open to suggestions.

As always, thanks for your incredible insight and help!

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  1. Lots of places have them. I like the duck at Hong Kong Bbq(formerly Sam Woo). I think they're about $17 for a whole duck. You should decide if you want to take it whole or have them chop it in almost bite sized pieces.

    You can serve at room temperature or heat it in the oven. I don't know how many you're serving but it's almost a side dish on it's own because there isn't as much meat as you may think. If it were a main dish (like serving a turkey) you'd maybe serve 3 people and that's it.
    Compare it to a Costco roast chicken the duck will have less meat.

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    Sam Woo Cafe
    727 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

    1. If by some chance you are going to have dim sum at CBS, they have a togo section where roast duck is at par with the others. That way you hit 2 birds with one stone and don't have to deal with parking problems.

      1. Chinatown is a pretty desolate place to find good roast duck. That said, I would go to either Lucky Deli or Empress Pavilion.

        You can leave the duck out at room temp for 5 or 6 hours without reheating and should be fine.

        As far as accourtrements, you can always go the traditional Peking Duck route with scallions, hoisin (or oyster) sauce and mantou pockets, or do somethind adventerous and pair it with a nice chopped salad of cucumbers, asaparagus, tomatoes and jicama.

        14 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          I don' t recall Empress Pavillion having roast ducks at their dim sum take out, you'd have to order it to go from the restaurant.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Have you ever tried to order anything to go from Empress Pavilion? Five'll get you ten it'll go straight through dismissive, cold waiter to an all-out shouting match.

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              Empress Pavilion Restaurant
              988 N Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                Never had a problem.

                That said, I've never tried it during dim sum hours.

              2. re: ipsedixit

                They want $30 for their whole Peking duck. I had it once when it was like $25 and didn't think it was that memorable.
                http://www.empresspavilion.com/specia...

            2. re: ipsedixit

              ipsedixit -- re: Chinatown = desolate; is there a better place to get a roast duck (Arcadia, etc.?) If there's a substantial difference in quality, we might be up for making a Sunday drive.

              1. re: VJA

                Sam Woo BBQ in Monterey Park sells more ducks than any place I've seen. Almost every table in the dining room is eating roast duck in one form or another. Roast duck wonton noodles, side of roast duck or roast duck on rice plate. They do a brisk business in the take out section selling roast duck. Some reason the take out section lists the duck as "Peking Duck". Take a peak in the kitchen and you will see dozens of ducks hanging to dry.
                Whole duck will run $18.

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                Sam Woo Cafe
                727 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                1. re: VJA

                  In SGV your options are aplenty.

                  Sam Woo BBQ in Alhambra (Valley and Sixth St.)
                  Sam Woo in the Focus Plaza
                  Lu Din Gee www.pearlcatering.com
                  Blue Ocean (corner of Valley and Garfield)

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    FWIW, I thought the Sam Woo on Valley has gone a bit downhill the last couple of times we went. We've reverted back to the one on Garvey and Chandler for our duck and bbq pork take out. The Valley one seemed to have gotten less juicy and the skin not as flavorful.

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                    Sam Woo Cafe
                    727 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  Quick question...is Lucky Deli still open? Haven't been back since it was closed down which was a while back. According to the LA Times survey, they had the best roast duck in LA. Sam Woo has pretty good duck and Yum Cha is fairly decent in LA Chinatown. I found the tastiest duck (and a little cheaper too) at Duong Son in Little Saigon on Bolsa to be my favorite.

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                  Sam Woo Cafe
                  727 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                  Duong Son
                  9081 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA 92683

                  1. re: Clinton

                    Could be wrong but I think Lucky Deli is gone.

                      1. re: monku

                        Thanks. I rarely go back to LA Chinatown since they closed a while back. They were the last place to buy large char siu baos similar to Hong Kong Low which also closed down a while back. I know Phoenix Bakery sells the same type of baos but it's just not the same as well as price-wise. May have to check it out again some day but only on Sundays when parking is free on the street. They also raised the parking meter rates for weekdays and Saturdays...ha, ha every penny counts.

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                        Phoenix Bakery
                        969 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA

                        1. re: Clinton

                          Believe Phoenix Bakery bought out Hong Kong Low and selling their char Sui bao at the bakery.

                          Best place for baked char sui bao is Family Pastry on Spring St. Near Ord. Big, meaty and only 65 cents. They're open 7:00am, 7 days a week. Easy free parking before 8am.

                3. I've run the gamut of take-out chinatown duck and for price and quality CBS seems to be the way to go.

                  I'm also partial to Lien Ho (cambodian-chinese takeout on Broadway) but I think the duck was a couple bucks more there and the difference was negligible.

                  Oh, by the way. Make SURE you get a duck from the racks hanging out front. If you order it somewhere not next to a steam tray they will get it from the back for you and charge you the restaurant eat-in price - around $5 more.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mrgreenbeenz

                    Hate to say but I've run the gamut too and never noticed a big difference that would knock my socks off with any roast ducks from any particular place. That being said I think the whole roast duck at Yum Cha Cafe is around $13. Pretty good chance they're all using the same ducks.

                  2. Lucky Deli on Broadway is my favorite in that area. Their roast pork is really good, too.

                    1. As far as reheating and serving: We buy ducks at our Chinese market. We buy them whole. They are roasted and have fragrant spices inside. At home I will remove the head and neck and cut the bird in half. Preheat oven to 425. I put some water into the bottom of my roasting pan so the meat doesn't dry out, and then place cut side down and heat maybe 25 - 30 minutes until it is heated through and the skin is very crispy. If we are very hungry, have maybe rice and broccoli with it, my wife and I can finish it off. I can see that if you did apps and several sides that you could quarter it (it is rich after all) and serve 4. No problem leaving it out until you're ready to heat it, it is fully cooked and you are going to heat it well also.

                      1. Any place to buy them in Orange County?

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: OCEllen

                          Sam Woo in Irvine, or any 99 Ranch.

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                          Sam Woo Restaurant
                          15333 Culver Dr Ste 720, Irvine, CA 92604

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            Don't think I ever saw roast duck at 99 Ranch in the LA area.

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                            99 Ranch
                            17713 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA

                            1. re: monku

                              I concur. It's usually sold separately by by an independent vendor next to a 99 Ranch Market like a food court or a small set-aside concession stand. I sure wish they would have something like that in our south bay area. The closest thing we have is Hong Kong Deli in Carson and A-1 BBQ on PCH.

                              1. re: Clinton

                                Hong Kong Deli is good for their Peking duck bao, can't find that anywhere else.

                                1. re: monku

                                  That really sounds worth the trip. I'v NEVER had Peking duck bao. Have you Chow Hounds ever had them anywhere else? This I would trave for. Only requirement is that the places must be in California. I'm good at seeking out adventures but not that good.

                                  1. re: Hughlipton

                                    Actually the Peking duck is just duck meat mixed with some hoisin sauce, but it's different and interesting.

                                  2. re: monku

                                    Oh that sounds different. Does it contain a little sweet hoisin like the kind served as the entree? Now that would be interesting since Peking duck, and kau Yuk (pot roast pork belly in bean curd) are served with the same type of soft bread patties. I know they also serve lop cheong (Chinese dried sweet sausage) baos so why not Peking duck baos? How's about kau yuk baos or roast pig baos? I've also seen Hawaiian kalua pig baos before. Dang, I'm salivating!
                                    Oh BTW, Hong Kong Deli (Bakery) is one of very few places that sells malassadas which is Portuguese sweet bread doughnuts coated with sugar.

                                    1. re: Clinton

                                      They might have kalua pig bao now that you mention it. I've only been there a few times and I see their stuff like the Peking duck bao at Marukai.
                                      Are their malasadas any good?
                                      I usually get them at Kings Hawaiian which are acceptable. Every malasada falls short of my first malasada at Leonards' Bakery in Hawaii.

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                                      Kings Hawaiian
                                      2808 Sepulveda Blvd, Torrance, CA

                                      1. re: monku

                                        The problem with mainland malassadas is that it's served cold most of the time similar to how doughnuts are served in a glass showcase. Now at Leonard's in Hawaii, it's made to order and nothing tastes better than piping hot malassadas right out of the oil pan. It's acceptable but nothing to write home about.

                                  3. re: Clinton

                                    Fine. Every 99 Ranch in OC (there are three, two in Irvine and one in Anaheim, with a fourth planned for Magnolia and Talbert in Fountain Valley) has such a set-aside.

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                                    99 Ranch
                                    17713 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA

                                  4. re: monku

                                    Hi Monku,
                                    They sell ducks at Ranch 99 in the deli section at the one on Sepulveda Blvd. next to Sam Woo. The ducks seem slightly bigger and cheaper at Ranch but the ones at Sam Woo are tastier. I switch back and forth. Do I want a cheaper, bigger duck or one that taste a hair better?

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                                    Sam Woo Cafe
                                    727 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                    1. re: Galen

                                      The Ranch 99 in the Focus Plaza also sells roast duck and chicken.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Speaking of kalua pig baos, there's a Filipino bakery (forgot the name) near Sunset/Gower that have adobo baos that are like baked golden char sui bao but with a vinegary adobo tang that are real yummy.

                              2. Quick update -- we went to Yum Cha for dim sum that morning and it was AWFUL -- truly inedible, and we didn't want to take a chance on the duck being that bad, so we went to Lucky Deli, had a few orders of very tasty dim sum, and bought a duck, which came with half a dozen mantou for $16. We reheated it for 10 minutes at 400 to make the skin crispy again, carved and served and it was AWESOME! Thanks for all the great tips -- couldn't have gotten this right without you guys.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: VJA

                                  You Lucky Duck, VJA!

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                                  Lucky Duck Restaurant
                                  672 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                2. I wanted to give this thread a bump. Since this was such a hit last year, it has now become an Easter tradition, so we're thinking of driving to SGV in the morning to have dim sum, then get a whole duck for dinner.

                                  I wanted to see if anyone had any updates on past recs or fresh suggestions for the best spots. We're happy to travel to more than one location, as well, so don't need a place that has both great dim sum and great whole duck. All thoughts welcome.

                                  4 Replies
                                    1. re: VJA

                                      I was told Sam Woo on Garvey in Monterey Park by Atlantic is suppose to be good. The other one is Monterey Palace on Garvey by New, also in Monterey Park (my grandpa would only get it from this one). Not sure how good they are now after the remodel.

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                                      Sam Woo Cafe
                                      727 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                      Monterey Palace Restaurant
                                      1001 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91755

                                      1. re: luckattack

                                        Your grandpa is correct. I've bough roast ducks from various places and brought them to work, pot-lucks, birthday parties, etc. I get the most positive feedback for the ducks from Monterey Palace (利苑海鮮酒家), PRE and POST remodel.

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                                        Monterey Palace Restaurant
                                        1001 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91755

                                      2. re: VJA

                                        I like the duck from Sam Woo at Focus Plaza: Valley & New Ave.

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                                        Sam Woo Cafe
                                        727 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012