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Seeking best Peking Duck in SF Chinatown

psychofan Jun 1, 2010 04:27 PM

I will be in SF, staying at the Mark Hopkins, later this month and am looking to get a great Peking Duck meal in nearby Chinatown. I would love to get some suggestions from fellow Chowhounders on specific restaurants to hit up. I will not have a car, thus the reason why any suggestions will have to be Chinatown-specific. Walk-ability to the restaurant from the Mark Hopkins will need to be paramount.

Additionally, are there any specific Malaysian and/or Singaporean restaurants in the immediate vicinity as well?

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  1. Chandavkl RE: psychofan Jun 1, 2010 04:48 PM

    You might know this already, but Chinatown is pretty meh when it comes to Chinese food. R & G Lounge is probably the best restaurant in Chinatown and is likely your best bet for Peking Duck. Chinatown is also mostly Cantonese oriented, but Penang Garden on Washington is OK and should satisfy your request for Malaysian food.

    R & G Lounge
    631 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108

    Penang Garden Restaurant
    728 Washington St, San Francisco, CA 94108

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chandavkl
      Ruth Lafler RE: Chandavkl Jun 1, 2010 05:08 PM

      I don't remember reading much about Peking duck at R&G. The last Peking duck I had in Chinatown was at Z&Y: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5712...

      That was over a year ago, though. Any recent reports on Z&Y? One of the nice things there is that you can have some good Sichuan dishes with your Peking duck.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler
        PeterL RE: Ruth Lafler Jul 13, 2010 09:28 AM

        They do serve a pretty good version of peking duck (or the Canto version called "sliced skin duck".)

    2. yimster RE: psychofan Jun 1, 2010 05:52 PM

      :Louie's on Washington Ave makes a decent Peking Duck as well as a Tea Smoked Duck. I like the Tea Smoked Duck better which has more flavor as well as the crispy skin. But is has been over a year since I have had duck there and over 9 months since I have had duck. Not on my diet.

      1. o
        OldTimer RE: psychofan Jun 1, 2010 07:44 PM

        If you are new to SF, know that the Mark Hopkins (while only a few blocks from Chinatown) is a steep walk to the hotel.

        8 Replies
        1. re: OldTimer
          psychofan RE: OldTimer Jun 3, 2010 03:19 PM

          Thanks. I've been warned already - will be there for 7 days/6 nights. In any case, the walk/climb back to the hotel should help to burn off some of the dinner calories!

          So, no other recommendations for Peking Duck, huh? Kind of disappointed.

          1. re: psychofan
            wolfe RE: psychofan Jun 3, 2010 03:35 PM

            If you can walk down the hill and catch BART to downtown Berkeley it is only a short walk to Great China. There are mixed reports about it's Peking duck but a regular really likes their tea-smoked.

            Great China Restaurant
            2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

            1. re: wolfe
              chocolatetartguy RE: wolfe Jun 3, 2010 03:52 PM

              The Peking duck is pretty good, but the tea-smoked is better.

              For some reason, I'm thinking that Silver Dragon in Oakland Ctown has good Peking Duck. It's within walking distance of the 12 the St. Oakland station.

              Silver Dragon
              835 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607

              1. re: chocolatetartguy
                kc72 RE: chocolatetartguy Jun 3, 2010 04:25 PM

                Peony in Oakland Ctown has a pretty food Peking Duck also. Plus, it's 1/2 off on Thursdays.

            2. re: psychofan
              Melanie Wong RE: psychofan Jun 3, 2010 03:54 PM

              Before I'd BART to Berkeley, a ride on the Geary bus to Five Happiness will net you the top Peking duck in San Francisco that we've found to date. You need to order it in advance and arrive promptly at the time its scheduled to come out of the oven.

              Sometimes the Peking duck at R&G Lounge can be very good, and other years, it is not. It is served Cantonese style with steamed buns rather than the pancakes you'll find at Five Happiness.

              Five Happiness
              4142 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

              1. re: Melanie Wong
                1 world diner RE: Melanie Wong Dec 10, 2010 09:30 PM

                Wow - we were BIG time disappointed by 5 Happiness' Peking Duck. I was embarrassed that I took my family there and said that Chowhound folks had recommended it.

                Peking Duck should have a dark, mahogany, crispy skin. They paraded a whole, honey colored duck before us. When the platter arrived at our table - the comment from everyone was, "This can't possibly be the skin for an entire duck!" There were just eleven pieces of skin, and it wasn't even crispy or tasty. Where did the drumsticks and meat go? At best, it was skin and meat from half of a duck. My brother in law grew up working in a restaurant and he has carved many a duck. He said it wasn't a whole duck. The pancakes were good - better than the paper thin variety that you can't peel open.

                Greater China is better - the skin is crisp, but it is still not the Peking Duck from our childhood banquets. As they say - they don't make em like they used to ... thick, crispy, flavor packed skin that was substantial enough that you didn't have to sandwich in a slice of meat to make it tasty. There was always enough skin for at least 18 servings.

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  Cathy2 RE: Melanie Wong Feb 3, 2013 09:28 PM


                  Is Five Happiness still the favored location for Peking Duck?

                  I am pretty sure I sent my family there based on your recommendations a year ago. I cannot find my e-mail directing them there.


                  Cathy2 (from Chicago)

                2. re: psychofan
                  PeterL RE: psychofan Jul 13, 2010 09:29 AM

                  The best Chinese food in the Bay Area don't reside in Chinatown, has not been for a long time.

              2. o
                OldTimer RE: psychofan Jun 3, 2010 04:12 PM

                I recall from several banquets ago that the Peking Duck at Empress of China is pretty good. You may have to order a whole duck...maybe they will do a half on request.

                Empress of China
                838 Grant Ave Ste 5, San Francisco, CA 94108

                2 Replies
                1. re: OldTimer
                  reldirx RE: OldTimer Aug 29, 2011 11:03 AM

                  It's true, the Empress of China Peking Duck is really good. You have to order in advance, and you have to be up for the strange mix of old-school and tourist (out of which, on occasion, I get a giant kick), but I thought the Peking Duck was out of this world.

                  Served to our party of six tableside, carved on it's little trolley then delivered to each plate in a pancake.

                  Empress of China
                  838 Grant Ave Ste 5, San Francisco, CA 94108

                  1. re: reldirx
                    Dustin_E RE: reldirx Aug 29, 2011 11:17 AM

                    i'm there.

                2. psychofan RE: psychofan Jul 12, 2010 07:25 AM

                  OK, so we went to R&G for their Peking Duck (at the suggestion of the hotel concierge). Went the evening of 6/20 at around 6:30pm (w/o a reservation) and found the place to be extremely packed. This was no "hole-in-the-wall" Chinatown restaurant, this was an upscale 'fancy' place. It was very nicely decorated and well-lit. Anyway, we were initially ready to head elsewhere as the line at the door was pretty long. Matter of fact, the hostess had assumed we were a party of two and told us that the wait would be at least an hour. HOWEVER, when she finally realized that we were a party of 5, we were IMMEDIATELY given a table downstair. No waiting at all, felt kinda bad walking right past everyone to an open table, but oh well.

                  What we ordered:
                  -Kong Xin Cai (w. Garlic): $15
                  -Salt and Pepper Prawns: $15
                  -Honey Spare Ribs: $13
                  -Peking Duck: $32
                  -Ling Cod (prepared in sauteed chives w. sprouts): $20

                  The entrees were pretty damn tasty. Really good in fact. Everything was cooked perfectly and seasoned nicely. However, the portions were extremely small for the price paid compared to the many other restaurants in Chinatown. If you are planning on ordering the Peking Duck, bear in mind that they do not serve the dish on those thin tortilla pancakes, they do so on those weird fluffy buns. Also, although the duck tastes fine, they did not do as good a job carving the fat off the skin as other places I have visited. Additionally, the Peking duck here still has bones in certain parts! I'm not referring to the legs/drumsticks, I'm talking breast bones/cage! That's just plain horrible for a classy Peking duck dish!

                  Being a 'fancier' restaurant in Chinatown, this place at least accepts credit cards. Anyway, if you come here, just remember that you'll be paying more for the presentation of the dishes than at other places in Chinatown.

                  R & G Lounge
                  631 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108

                  22 Replies
                  1. re: psychofan
                    Chandavkl RE: psychofan Jul 12, 2010 09:36 AM

                    You've pointed out the West Coast/East Coast difference in peking duck. Those "weird" fluffy mantou buns are the norm in SF and LA, while the tortilla pancakes are the exception. (Exception? I don't think I've seen them out here.) And since there are a lot more Chinese restaurants serving peking duck on the West Coast than the East Coast, the tortilla pancakes are actually the weird ones.

                    West Coast Cafe
                    466 San Mateo Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066

                    1. re: Chandavkl
                      boris_qd RE: Chandavkl Jul 12, 2010 10:05 AM

                      There's a takeout window in Flushing that also does the buns.

                      But in Beijing I only had the tortilla flats. Does that put the Buns back in the weird spot?

                      1. re: boris_qd
                        Chandavkl RE: boris_qd Jul 12, 2010 12:31 PM

                        Nah! This is a west coast board, and buns are the only thing I've seen in 50 years of eating the stuff. There was a thread last year on the Manhattan board on the same subject. Just as Chinese-American culture differs from Chinese culture, to a lesser extent Chinese food in the U.S. has evolved from its overseas origins.

                        1. re: Chandavkl
                          PeterL RE: Chandavkl Jul 13, 2010 09:31 AM

                          Never been to Great China, Berkeley?

                          Great China Restaurant
                          2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                      2. re: Chandavkl
                        K K RE: Chandavkl Jul 12, 2010 10:24 AM

                        The buns thing is a result of Cantonese restaurants serving Peking Duck and maybe Tea Smoked Duck.

                        In Hong Kong however, Peking Duck restaurants do the tortilla/crepe thing, like Spring Deer/Luk Ming Chuen in Tsim Sa Tsui. For a place serving the duck with crepe/tortilla, you would have to go to a restaurant run by Mainland Chinese (specializing in Beijing cuisine and duck, like that famous place in Berkeley) or Taiwanese run (in the case of SoCal, like Lu Ding Gee or whatever that place is called).

                        1. re: K K
                          vincentlo RE: K K Jul 12, 2010 12:43 PM

                          Peking Duck Restaurant in Palo Alto serve the tortilla/crepe instead of the buns, but they are simply reheating tortilla wraps bought somewhere. I remember when I was small in Hong Kong, I loved eating those crepes by themselves because restaurants are supposed to be making those from scratch when they serve Peking Duck.

                          1. re: vincentlo
                            K K RE: vincentlo Jul 12, 2010 01:39 PM

                            Good to know, thanks for the data point (and perhaps rare exception!)

                            Just out of curiosity, is Peking Duck Restaurant run by Hong Kongers or Northern Chinese?

                            In addition to making crepes/tortillas in-house as a requirement for achieving excellence (or authenticity depending on how one looks at it) in the whole Peking Duck experience, the sauce (tian mien jang) should also be made in house (from scratch). There is also the school of folks or restauranteurs (in HK and elsewhere) who believe that the duck must be brought to the table within 5 minutes and sliced in a particular way for maximizing the customer's experience.

                            1. re: K K
                              vincentlo RE: K K Jul 16, 2010 06:31 AM

                              The owner and the chefs at Peking Duck Restaurant speak Cantonese to one another, and so I assume they must all be from the Guangdong province of China.

                          2. re: K K
                            bbulkow RE: K K Jul 16, 2010 11:05 AM

                            Sounds right: here's a review of the famous place in Beijing that mentions the flat pancakes.


                            One Chinese wedding banquet I went to printed "good luck" or similar on each of the buns with the duck course. That would be hard with the pancakes.

                            1. re: bbulkow
                              Melanie Wong RE: bbulkow Jul 16, 2010 04:33 PM

                              Yes, when I was a wee one, the buns at Cantonese banquets used to have symbols in red for good luck or double happiness stamped on them. And it was SOP then to peel off the outer skin of the bun due to the way the glossy sheen was achieved before water spray bottles were common.

                          3. re: Chandavkl
                            Melanie Wong RE: Chandavkl Jul 12, 2010 03:32 PM

                            The buns are the way that Cantonese restaurants serve Peking duck. The Beijing/Shandong restaurants on the West Coast that I've been to serve with the traditional pancakes. Since the majority of Chinese restaurants on the West Coast are Cantonese, I can see where you'd come to that conclusion.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                              Chandavkl RE: Melanie Wong Jul 12, 2010 04:32 PM

                              Thanks. Hardly any Beijing style restaurants in the LA area, as a recent LA Times review pointed out.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                vincentlo RE: Melanie Wong Jul 16, 2010 06:35 AM

                                As far as I know, no Cantonese restaurants in mainland China, Taiwan, or Hong Kong serve Peking Duck, *but* we are in California here. Just like how 99% of Japanese restaurants must serve sushi, tempura, tonkatsu, teriyaki, ramen, and the whole enchilada of what one expects to find in a Americanized Japanese restaurant.

                            2. re: psychofan
                              Cary RE: psychofan Jul 12, 2010 06:30 PM

                              "Additionally, the Peking duck here still has bones in certain parts! I'm not referring to the legs/drumsticks, I'm talking breast bones/cage! That's just plain horrible for a classy Peking duck dish!"

                              Were you expecting the duck to be broken down Western-style into sliced breast fillets?

                              1. re: Cary
                                psychofan RE: Cary Jul 12, 2010 06:54 PM

                                Yes I was because that's how it's supposed to be. That's how the peking duck I had back in DC (Falls Church, VA) was presented. Completely boneless sliced breast fillets.

                                1. re: psychofan
                                  Chandavkl RE: psychofan Jul 12, 2010 09:06 PM

                                  Mark's Duck House?

                                  1. re: Chandavkl
                                    psychofan RE: Chandavkl Jul 13, 2010 06:22 AM

                                    That's the one. They even gave me the two peking duck carcasses afterwards. Now to find a good duck soup recipe for those carcasses.

                                    1. re: psychofan
                                      wolfe RE: psychofan Jul 13, 2010 06:46 AM

                                      There must be a reason why something is as easy as....
                                      * Boil duck carcass in about 1 gallon of water for 1-1.5 hours
                                      * remove carcass by draining the broth over a colander and catching the bones and meat in it
                                      * remove bones from meat, and set meat aside
                                      * place broth back into pot.
                                      * Chop and add vegetables and spices to broth
                                      * while the vegetables are cooking on low-med, chop the pieces of duck, and return to soup.
                                      * Simmer for about an hour. Don't overcook or it'll be mushy.

                                  2. re: psychofan
                                    gnomatic RE: psychofan Jul 13, 2010 04:45 PM

                                    I am curious if perhaps some people are confusing roast duck (found hanging in windows of various chinese restaurants & deli) with Peking duck.

                                    I have seen lot's of chinese restaurants claiming Peking duck on the english menu...but what they actually serve is slice roast duck meat & skin with something to wrap it in & sauce.

                                    I was under the impression roasting Peking duck is a much more skilled & complicated process (i.e. the separating the skin from meat, blowing it up like a balloon, air dry overnight with fan blowing on it etc) then the regular old chinese roast duck or goose. Always served with pancakes. Anything else is just roast duck or goose, tasty..but not the same.

                                  3. re: Cary
                                    Melanie Wong RE: Cary Jul 13, 2010 03:20 PM

                                    The classic way is to serve slices of just the crispy skin, alongside boneless slices of the meat.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                      Pei RE: Melanie Wong Jul 13, 2010 03:34 PM

                                      That's known in my circles as "The greedy way to eat it" aka. my favorite way.

                                      1. re: Pei
                                        Dustin_E RE: Pei Jul 11, 2011 11:54 AM

                                        when i was in beijing, a team of three came out and sliced the duck, and even wrapped it in pancakes for us. a chinese restaurant in tokyo i visited did the same thing, so you don't have to do any work at all, just eat as much duck as you possibly could.

                                        does anyone know of a place in the bay area that does (or will) serve it like this? perhaps by special order or something?

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