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Aug 9, 2012 09:22 PM

East bay roast duck roundup

Since Great China closed, I haven't had any good roast duck in the East Bay. Any recent experiences worth mentioning? Since the chef at Great China started working at Mandarin Garden, I've not heard any reports about the duck. Last night I hit three places in Oakland Chinatown with limited success:

I've actually had New Gold Medal's a few times. It's great in the congee, but it's never great by itself. Last night, the orangish skin was soggy and the meat was not especially flavorful.

Gum Kuo's got a nice color and crispy skin, but their duck wasn't very meaty. Also, the skin was so heavily doused with MSG that it was almost unpalatable. At least the fantastic cheung fun made this place a worthwhile stop.

The meat at Yung Kee was plentiful and juicy, but almost none of the fat had rendered and the skin was soggy.

I've seen good reports for all these places, so I wonder if nighttime is a bad time to have roast duck in Chinatown. That notwithstanding, any other places I should hit? It doesn't have to be Chinese.

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  1. "The meat at Yung Kee was plentiful and juicy, but almost none of the fat had rendered and the skin was soggy."

    This was my exact experience with the roast duck at Chai Thai Noodles on E14th.

    I had a pretty good version recently at Sabuy Sabuy on College. Nicely rendered, crispy skin. Juicy meat. Not that big a portion, but it was a lunch rice plate. Maybe $7-8 so not a big gamble.

      1. re: sydthekyd

        I've done take-out duck at both Daimo and Saigon. Ducks at neither place had soggy skin.

        1. re: sydthekyd

          Opening up Daimo's takeout package a bit after 9PM, I got a nice whiff of spices. The skin was thin and crispy, crispier than the three I wrote about in my OP.

          The meat was plentiful, but it ranged from flavorless to tasting off, a bit like egg yolks. The fat layer was thicker than I like and the skin was coated in a greasy sheen.

          Thai might be the way to go, at least for night time. To be continued ...

          1. re: hyperbowler

            Curious if any place that offers roast duck has most of the fat rendered. Inflating the duck(separating the skin from the fat) is what makes Peking Duck skin so crispy - and allows the fat to be rendered. roast duck does not undergo this step.

            1. re: gordon wing

              I kind of like a thin layer of fat, actually!

              The inflation technique probably works best, but it's not necessary to render out most of the fat, is it? It's been a while since I've made a roast duck, but the technique I used for Christmas goose was to poke holes in it, steam it, and then roast it. That rendered out quite a bit of fat.

              1. re: hyperbowler

                That's not the only way to render fat but the inflation, drying and sugar are what create the crunchy skin on Peking duck. This technique is only one of several that differentiate a Peking style duck from the Cantonese style. Great China makes a Peking duck, the others mentioned in your post do not. They're very different from each other.

            2. re: hyperbowler

              We had the roast duck at Daimo in May 2013 and it was so godawful-salty none of us could eat it. I didn't even bother taking the leftovers home for soup stock.

              Saigon Harbor erratically uses Liberty ducks. When they do, and the ducks are fresh out of the oven, they're amazing. If not, they're ordinary. I can't figure out the schedule, it may be just sometimes they get the good ducks, and sometimes not.

          2. I would say that nighttime might not be the best time for roast duck. It is best soon after it comes out of the oven. I've always liked the version at Gum Wah. They are meaty and the skin is nicely burnished.

            In the city I have had good luck the few times I went to Win's. For that Great China tea-smoked duck experience, I just had San Tung's as takeout and it was plenty good.

            1. many old time cantonese eateries source their roast ducks @yet sun, 388 9th st.
              -ducks taste sweeter as they are brushed with rock sugar water during the process
              family likes cafe 88's. recipe is from hong kong, hearsay says.
              -service at cafe 88 is atrocious, old ladies think nothing of cutting in line. the buthers ignored it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: shanghaikid

                LOL, don't old ladies cut in line everywhere in Chinatown!?

              2. Thanks for the tips. I remember liking the duck at Daimo a few years back. Perhaps it's worth a revisit. I'll probably get to Sabuy Sabuy or Gum Wah first

                Shanghai kid, I wasn't quite sure if you were recommending Yet Sun or indicating that a conmib source was behind the bad stuff. Let me know if it's the former and I'll call yet sun to find out their hours.

                1 Reply
                1. re: hyperbowler

                  Yet Sun is a recommendation. old time chinese eateries had no inhouse duck specialists. they got them from yet sun along with the "live" chicken and fish.

                  -rock sugar is one of yet sun's ingredients creating the sweet tasting skin.
                  yet sun closes at 6, not sure when they open (9, 10?)