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$38.95 Peking Duck in Three Parts at Beijing Restaurant (Irving Street Branch, San Francisco)

Monday I joined a friend for lunch at the new branch of Beijing Restaurant on Irving Street that opened last month. We picked it thanks to Pandora’s post with the menu information for the Peking Duck, $38.95, three courses.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7511...

I called around 11:30A that morning to check to see if we needed to order the duck in advance. The female voice on the phone said that there was enough time to fire one for a lunch order.

“Part A, House Made Duck Soup”
Arriving as the second duck course, the soup was my favorite course. The stock was richer than other versions, a milky yet rather light-textured concoction of boiled bones, Napa cabbage, and glass noodles. I suspect that rather than just using the bones from just our duck’s carcass, the soup started from a duck stock base.

“Part B, Slice[d] Duck with hand made pancake (8 pancakes, including dipping sauce, cucumber, shredded green onion)”
This is the first of three preps to be served. At first I was a bit concerned that we’d missed out on most of the promised skin and duck meat, but soon another plateful of slices came out. We were also skeptical that the thin, papery pancakes were “handmade”, so we asked. The owner says they "fix" each pancake so that they're identical and uniform in size. The sauce is based on genuine tian mian jiang with some additional ingredients rather than the hoisin sauce served at Cantonese restaurants. The cucumbers and green onions were freshly cut with precision.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

Quite a homely presentation, the surface of the duck had too many prickly pin feathers. Ranging from mahogany to golden brown, the skin looked beautiful but was rather limp for a freshly roasted duck. Some pieces still had more fat under the skin than I like to see. However, the meat was more flavorful and juicier than typical. Asking the owner about it, she explained to us that unlike the traditional, plain roasting, the Peking duck here is seasoned on the inside to give it more flavor. I do like her innovation but the kitchen needs to work on the skin. The thin pancakes were a little disappointing as well, turning rubbery and tough as they cooled down.

“Part C, Salt and Pepper Duck”
The course I was most curious about was the salt and pepper preparation. After harvesting their skin and most of the meat, the boney parts (e.g., thigh and rib cage) were battered and deep-fried. Nice seasoning on the batter too, but this was too thick and greasy. For something as rich as duck meat, a lighter coating would be better. Then again, maybe these salty, fried bits would be more enjoyable with a beer in a sports bar.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

I did ask if we could take a look at the special duck roasting oven. Next time, she said, and elaborated that this is a modern oven and not that interesting to see. It’s only been in use for a couple weeks and maybe the operator and oven need more time to get to know each other. I also wondered if more advance notice might yield a better roasting job. For now, the Peking duck at Five Happiness is superior. Yet, I hope that chowhounds will continue to file duck progress reports from the new Beijing Restaurant.

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Beijing Restaurant
3925 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

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  1. Hi Melanie,
    It looks like Peking duck at Five Happiness might be on the menu next week. It will just be my wife and myself. I'll call in advance. I have no Mandarin. Would you order something before the duck and after? If so, what?
    Thanks in advance.

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    Five Happiness
    4142 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

    2 Replies
    1. re: steve h.

      I'm interested in this also. We'll be not too far from there after Christmas.

      1. I'm interested in good Peking duck next week. Five Happiness sounds good to me.

        I'm also interested in taking the N Judah out to Golden Gate Park so I can see the cool miniature trains and San Francisco mock-ups at the Flower Conservatory. We do the same here in the Bronx. In the Bronx, I'd head over to Roberto's after watching the trains at the Botanical Gardens. In San Francisco, I'll shoot over to Magnolia Pub and drink beer and have a burger. It's all good.

        Keller Winery is pretty cool. Thanks for the tip.

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        Five Happiness
        4142 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

        10 Replies
        1. re: steve h.

          Love Roberto's. Let me know about Five Happiness and Magnolia Pub. Love all good food.

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          Five Happiness
          4142 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

          1. re: c oliver

            I'm all over this. I might even chat about a burger/beer at the upstairs Epic Roasthouse bar. Sunday, a.m. to watch the NY Giants at Pier 23 is a personal choice. I have friends there.
            There's something about bars...

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            Pier 23 Cafe
            The Embarcadero and Union St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            Epic Roasthouse
            369 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105

            1. re: steve h.

              Epic bar menu looks great. Thanks for the tip.

              1. re: c oliver

                Sit at the big seats (you'll know 'em when you see 'em). Martinis are pretty good. It's too much fun.

                1. re: steve h.

                  Love it. Wonder if Five Happiness has martinis or Gibsons? Interesting "flavor profile" :)

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                  Five Happiness
                  4142 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Epic has meat (and a fireplace).The upstairs bar area has cool leather seats. Next-door is Waterbar. The bar is zinc. Locals haven't taken to either Epic or Waterbar. I like the bars at both places. I've never tried the dining rooms and doubt I will. The views are really good.

                    1. re: steve h.

                      We "tourists" aren't as discriminating as locals, I'm sure. Views count.

          2. re: steve h.

            Did you make it to Five Happiness? Heading in the city on Sunday.

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            Five Happiness
            4142 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

            1. re: c oliver

              Negative. We did enjoy the dim sum at Yank Sing on both Friday and Monday (we show up at 11:15 a.m. to avoid the rush).

              Our big "find" of the week was Cotogna (spawn of Quince). We walked in without reservations shortly before the 5:30 dinner service and sat at the bar. I'll post a few thoughts on the existing Cotogna thread later this week. I like this moderately-priced place a lot.

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              Yank Sing
              49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

              1. re: steve h.

                I've never had a long wait at Yank Sing. Even if you show up at noon or so on a weekend, you are most likely to be seated within minutes. I guess that's the price you pay.

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                Yank Sing
                49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

          3. Is the lady owner from the Alemany branch now running the Irving one?

            5 Replies
            1. re: baron45

              The youngish woman who waited on us id'd herself as the owner. She said she's splitting her time between the two restaurants. I've only been to Alemany once so wouldn't recognize her from there.

              Should also mention that the Peking duck is only available at Irving though it appears on the take-out menu for both restaurants. We also had a couple dishes to start -- the spinach with sesame sauce and shui jiao (boiled dumplings). Spinach was a little too salty but maybe because I was eating from the top of the serving and the part that had more sauce on it. The dumplings were a little smaller than other places but definitely fresh, made to order. The skins were really chewy and elastic, not doughy, and I liked them very much. Can't tell you which filling we had, probably the pork and cabbage ones, I was so fixated on the chewy texture.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Melanie, how many people would the 3 course Peking Duck feed if that was the only thing they were to order?

                1. re: wineguy7

                  To give you a range, one Peking duck is about 20 portions, or enough for 10 people at a multi-course banquet to have two or more pieces. One time I shared a Peking duck sans soup course with just one other person and it was too much for two of us.

                  So, maybe three average eaters, if all you're ordering is the duck in three parts. There's not much to the salt & pepper course once you discount the batter and bones, so I wouldn't count it. And if that's not enough food, you can easily order something else off the menu to supplement.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Thanks, Melanie. We've been to the Irving branch twice, but haven't ordered the Peking Duck yet. This is mainly due to a love affair with their dumplings. I can't seem to get Mrs. Wineguy to go there without having both the Fennel Dumplings as well as the Lamb Dumplings! Maybe next time...

                    1. re: wineguy7

                      The boiled dumplings are very good. I'd have a hard time going there without ordering them too.

            2. If you've had Beijing duck in Beijing or anywhere else in China for that matter, you should know that what they are serving is NOT the real thing. What they serve is essentially Cantonese style roast duck (with less flavor) and not what is famous from that part of China. Maybe that's why they didn't want to show you the oven.

              I like Beijing Restaurant and think they are pretty good with some dishes, but Beijing duck is clearly not something they can do. What they serve is not even close to an authentic rendition of this famous dish, but given the lack of alternatives here, Beijing Restaurant is hoping to get away with a significantly inferior version since most people here wouldn't know any better.