Diner’s Diary

Pressed duck is as much a performance as a culinary experience, and at Gaddi’s you can take part as well as partaking

Watch as your server cuts up a roast duck, help them press the carcass if you like, then savour the results - served in three parts - as Peninsula Hong Kong restaurant revives a French classic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 January, 2017, 1:13pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 January, 2017, 1:14pm

If you’re the kind of diner who likes to get hands-on at the restaurant table and enjoys a food experience that’s as much visual as visceral, you’d doubtless get a kick from ordering pressed duck at Gaddi’s.

The classic French dish, available at the restaurant in The Peninsula Hong Kong until the end of March, was created in the 19th century by Parisian restaurant La Tour d’Argent. Gaddi’s chef Xavier Boyer has updated the dish by serving it in three courses, not the usual two.

The first thing diners who order pressed duck see is a silver press that’s brought out so they can watch the dish’s preparation tableside.

A whole duck, lightly roasted, is next to appear - and not just any duck, but one of the Challans breed from western France, chosen for its fattiness at this time of year. Working tableside, your server first cuts off the legs, then carefully removes the skin and fat from the carcass and cuts out the duck breast fillets. These meats are set aside.

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The bloody carcass is then cut into several pieces, using sharp knives and what look like gardening shears and, along with the heart and kidneys, placed in a small container with holes at the bottom.

The container is placed in the silver press, which has a wheel at the top and a spout at the bottom, and a sauce boat below to catch the jus.

Watch how the duck is pressed

It’s pretty hard work crushing the bones and organs in the press – you can try for yourself if you are so inclined. After the jus is extracted, it is taken back to the kitchen to be strained, then returned to the dining room, where a portable stove is set up.

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In a pan, soup stock is simmered with some butter, port, salt and pepper, before the jus is added and finally a dash of cognac. Then the duck breast fillets are placed in the pan to finish cooking, during which time they soak up the rich flavours of the stock. Once cooked, the meat is removed and sliced, and the liquid reduced to make a sauce which is then poured over the fillet slices.

The taste? Divine. The meat is very tender, still a bit pink in the middle, while the dark, fragrant sauce is rich, silky and full of flavour. The dish comes with linguini topped with black truffles.

While the breasts is prepared and served, back in the kitchen the duck leg meat is stripped from the bone, mixed with mustard, tarragon, black truffle and duck rillettes, moulded into a doughnut shape, breaded and pan-fried. The resulting duck confit is served topped with salad and more black truffles.

This was delicious, too, but it was quite a large portion and we only managed to tackle half of it, having to save room for the last dish.

Thankfully it was a light one: clear broth with seasonal vegetables. The stock is made from the duck bones and in the middle is a little package holding some duck meat, cream and Madeira sauce.

Pressed duck is thus a substantial meal, though you could probably still squeeze in dessert.

It’s well worth trying such a classic dish, which isn’t often served in Hong Kong.

The pressed duck is HK$2,680 for two and is available until March 31 with the exception of Valentine’s Day. Reservations for the dish must be made a week in advance.

Gaddi’s, 1/F, The Peninsula Hong Kong, Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. Tel: 2696 6763