Peking duck is iconic. It represents China as much as Chairman Mao or the Great Wall do. Naturally, Beijing has some fine restaurants offering duck of awe-inspiring finesse and perfection. Da Dong is one of the best, and has long been among the most celebrated roast duck restaurants of the capital.
Da Dong roast duck restaurant is supposed to serve some of the best Peking duck in Beijing, and yes, it does deserve its reputation. No longer one restaurant, Da Dong has grown into a small chain. Each of its restaurants has its own interior design, but all share the same menu. This menu is totally different from a Western gastronomic restaurant, both because it is preposterously long (hundreds of dishes!), and full of pictures and descriptions of the dishes. But don’t let that bother you, after all, you’re in China, where pictorial menus are not in the least unusual.
Upon entering the restaurant, you are greeted by a row of polite waiters, are friendly, but at times not that capable. But, no matter which Da Dong restaurant you choose, whether it be a more modern or a more traditionally styled location, the food will always be worth the relatively low price. It is of course essential to try the duck here, at least once, as it is an experience you will never forget. The technique employed is most complicated. Preparing the duck takes a couple of days, to render the skin as delicate, thin and crispy as possible. But all the effort is well worth all trouble as the result is the most refined Peking duck you will ever come across in Beijing, and therefore the world. The skin is of an incomparable fragility, and when dipped into sugar, it is both crispy and melting at the same time. It has a surreal, unbelievably satisfying texture for anyone eating it for the first time. Also fabulous are the pancakes, so implausibly thin. Use them to prepare your little duck wraps and you will be stunned by how tender and juicy the meat is, and how lean this traditional dish can really be. This Peking duck would be worth three stars, without doubt, if it had been served in Europe.
But, this is not the only dish worth ordering at Da Dong. Also great are the big prawns, cooked in the style of a gong bei chicken (with a sweet and sour sauce). These have great flavour and texture that show off the quality of the produce and the precise seasoning. They are far better than those served in most Chinese restaurants, which goes for most of the produce used here. Another truly captivating dish is a simple fish soup. What makes this soup special is the fact that it is prepared with a fish that is shown live to the diner first, before being taken back to the kitchen, killed and cooked. This would never be possible in Europe, which is a real pity, as the result is truly memorable. The soup is a thin broth with a subtle yet pronounced flavour. The balance of flavours is again startling, as everything is dosed perfectly. This is another dish of the highest order, which lets the perfectly cooked fish shine.
This list of exceptional dishes could go on and on. All in all, Da Dong is unique, not only because it has such a fascinating roast duck, but because of the consistent high quality of both the food and often also the service. This applies to all of the various Da Dong outlets, which have achieved a level of uniformity in terms of precision in the kitchen that is really impressive A real treat, at amazingly low prices.