Quacking good news

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 September, 1996, 12:00am

For six years I've been searching for fresh Peking duck. Finally, in Discovery Bay, the quest has come to an end.

Virtually all Peking ducks come frozen from China, apparently because mainlanders prefer not to have fresh birds. Until recently, those who wanted their fowl without all the oil on the skin had one restaurant which brought the ducks from the New Territories. But when the Lee Gardens hotel closed down, we were bereft.

Jade Lotus (which bills itself as having 'authentic Han cuisine') has that duck, which comes from farms on Peng Chau to the pristine suburbia of Discovery Bay. And while we didn't order the duck, preferring to sample more dishes, now at least we know where to get the dish.

Incidentally, another dish we didn't order - since it would take a day to prepare - was barbecued Peking pigeon. This is pigeon prepared Peking duck-style, the skin carved from the bones, then the meat. Alas, no pigeon soup. But the novelty may be worth the effort.

It was quite a surprise to find both dishes in Disco Bay, which previously was known more for its rules and regulations, chaste pathways, and mall-like centre.

A North China restaurant didn't promise much, but Disco Bay residents insisted it was excellent, and they weren't wrong. Overlooking the jetty (for those lucky enough to get a window banquette), the place is clean and airy.

Besides the two fowl dishes, Jade Lotus has other originals. Fried shrimp paste on toast with pigeon's egg and conpoy may sound an odd combination but the flavours do go together, the pigeon egg plunked on top of what looks like a Welsh rarebit.

Equally new to us was beancurd rolls stuffed with baby mushrooms. The 'rolls' are flattened-out beancurd skin, filled with three or four different mushrooms strips. We were told this was a Sichuan dish, and it was tasty.

The sizzling beef came with extras: pancakes. The sizzling beef and green onions were placed on thin pancakes, usually served with Peking duck, then dunked in vinegar sauce. Absolutely delightful.

Not original, but fresh and good were the fried freshwater shrimps in chili sauce. For a cold dish, the smoked fish was too bony, but once we picked out the slivers, it was fine.

We also tried the quick-fried chicken with green pepper. This was eaten with Peking rolls, as were the shrimp.

The final dish was, of course, onions rolls: flaky and light, stuffed with plenty of spring onions.

Jade Lotus is worth another trip to Disco Bay, just because the menu is packed with so many dishes. Besides the duck and pigeon, we all agreed the dozen-odd beancurd dishes looked appetising.

Among 'snacks' are Peking dim sum, pork dumplings with onions, sesame cakes and steamed bread rolls.

Two surprises with the meal. One is the house wine. For $130, you get a Chilean Casa Laposta, one of their rich red Cabernet Sauvignons, which actually harmonised with the dishes.

On the other hand, my Chinese rice wine was proudly shown to have aged seven years and at $150 was as smooth as a good sherry.

The other surprise was the price. Five of us dined in real style, and the bill - excluding drinks - came to $561. Adding the $48 per person round-trip to Disco Bay, one shouldn't pay more than $100 for a super meal.

JADE LOTUS RESTAURANT Shop 103 1st Floor, DB Plaza, Discovery Bay, Lantau. Tel: 2987-8033. Hours: 11.30am-3pm, 6-10.30pm (weekends, 11.30am-11pm)