The best Peking duck in Beijing: five restaurants that roast to perfection
- There is no shortage of restaurants serving the classic imperial dish in China’s capital
- Here are our favourite five places, which all serve delicious duck with crisp skin and tender meat
For many people visiting Beijing, trying Peking roast duck features high on their to-do list. From former US first lady Michelle Obama, who dined at the famed Da Dong Roast Duck restaurant, to late German chancellor Helmut Kohl, who visited a branch of the renowned Quanjude chain, the famous dish attracts dignitaries and ordinary food lovers to China’s capital.
A bite of the duck – which is eaten for its crisp skin and tender meat – more than makes up for Beijing’s choking smog and traffic jams.
While Da Dong and Quanjude are the most famous restaurants for Peking duck, there are lesser known places that are beloved by locals and tourists.
Taking into account food quality, restaurant ambience and price, here are the five best Peking duck restaurants in Beijing.
1. Jing Yaa Tang
In the basement of the Opposite House hotel in Sanlitun, you’ll find Jing Yaa Tang – our favourite among the five restaurants. Opened in 2013 and decorated like a traditional Chinese theatre, it has a tranquil and upscale ambience. Diners can look through a glass panel and see how the ducks are roasted in the wood oven.
Served on a gourd-shaped plate, the roast duck (281 yuan) we ordered had thin, crisp, light brown skin. The bird was not fatty and the meat was tender. It was served with thin pancakes and ingredients such as minced fried garlic and cantaloupe. We loved the fruity and sweet sauce.
Chef Li Dong says diners must order the duck at least three days in advance.
“We put soup into the duck [before it’s cooked] so the meat won’t taste dry even after roasting. We use potato starch to make the sauce, which has to be steamed for four hours to make it taste refreshing,” he says.
“We are not like other restaurants which use the remaining duck bone and skin to make soup as a complimentary course, as we don’t want to serve below-par duck remains. For our duck soup [which is a separate dish], we boil 20 ducks for six hours. We don’t stint on ingredients.”
The menu has a wide selection of Chinese dishes that we can also recommend, including the grilled lamb skewer (240 yuan) with juicy and tender meat, and dan dan noodles (65 yuan) with a flavourful sauce. Our favourite dish was the cherry tomatoes marinated in plum sauce (49 yuan) which was served cold and had a mildly refreshing sour taste.
Jing Yaa Tang, LG/F, The Opposite House, Taikoo Li Sanlitun North, 11 Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang district, Beijing, tel: +86 10 6410 5230.
2. Duck de Chine
Duck de Chine on upmarket Jinbao Street is a beautiful restaurant with a regal vibe. Decorated in a deep red and purple colour scheme, the restaurant surrounds a verdant courtyard dotted with replica Terracotta Warrior statutes.
Formerly the house of late Peking University chancellor Cai Yuanpei, the restaurant, which opened in 2011, has the best setting among our five picks.
The imperial Peking duck (388 yuan) is served to the beat of an ancient gong, accompanied (for an extra charge of 30 yuan) by pancakes, hoisin sauce, cucumber, leek and radish. Their ducks are roasted for 65 minutes. Our duck’s meat was tender, and the skin was caramelised and crisp.
Other dishes served here – including seafood rice in lobster soup (98 yuan) and braised tofu with shrimps and scallops (168 yuan) – are subtly seasoned. The restaurant appeals to those who dislike Chinese cooking with heavy flavours.
Duck de Chine, 1949 Club, 98 Jinbao Street, Dongcheng district, Beijing, tel: +86 10 6521 2221
3. Liqun Roast Duck
The rustic-looking Liqun Roast Duck is the only restaurant still standing in an old alley that could soon be demolished by the government in its rush to gentrify the area. The decor is timeworn, but its appeal is a wide selection of amazing and inexpensive food.
Duck is served as part of a set meal. We ordered one set big enough for three to four people (438 yuan), which included traditional roast duck; Mongolian beef; lotus root with hawthorn; egg rolls stuffed with chicken, chives and carrot; sautéed black mushrooms; chicken with black fungus; and vegetables.
The duck will appeal to those who don’t mind oil; roasted for 40 minutes to an hour, its crisp skin goes well with the thick layer of succulent fat.
We also received two complimentary dishes: deep-fried salted duck bones and duck soup with mushrooms, Chinese vermicelli and cabbage. The light soup, with its strong duck flavour, helped cut through the heavy main duck dish.
The restaurant is named after its founder, Zhang Liqun, who used to work at Quanjude. His daughter, Zhang Xin, who oversees the restaurant, says her father opened it after he was laid off by the restaurant chain.
“He managed a team of duck cooks and served political leaders and rich tycoons at Quanjude. He built the brick oven himself and set up the restaurant at our former home. The oven has to be heated for 20 minutes before roasting ducks, which must not be older than 55 days, as the growth of sex glands will give the ducks a gamy taste,” she says.
In spite of its popularity, Zhang Xin says the restaurant’s future is uncertain.
“The house is ours but might be demolished [by the government]. We bought a nearby historical compound but [the government] hasn’t given us an operating licence. We want to continue operating in the vicinity.”
Liqun Roast Duck, 11 Beixiangfeng, Zhengyi Lu, Dongcheng district, Beijing, tel: +86 10 6705 5578
4. Quanjude – Qianmen branch
Set up in 1864, the chain’s flagship store can be found in Qianmen. With outlets in other Chinese cities as well as Taiwan, Canada and Australia, the Peking roast duck restaurant has served a long list of political leaders, including Fidel Castro and Richard Nixon.
With the most imposing decor of the 24 branches in Beijing, the Qianmen restaurant is boisterous at peak hours, with long queues even on weekdays and carts of ducks being pushed around diners.
We were impressed by the thick menu featuring dozens of dishes made from all parts of a duck. We tried the peony roasted duck (288 yuan, with 14 yuan charged for the pancakes). The duck was fatty, but the skin was too tough.
We loved the salted water duck liver (48 yuan), which had been cooked for several hours. The light, salty flavour made it a good cold appetiser. We also liked the stewed duck slices in sour soup (82 yuan), as the duck meat was tender and the sauce appetising.
Quanjude is not a high-end restaurant and is suitable for family meals. Customers can visit the small museum at the Qianmen branch’s entrance, which chronicles the restaurant’s long culinary heritage.
Quanjude, 30 Qianmen Street, Dongcheng district, Beijing, tel: +86 10 6511 2418
5. Da Dong Roast Duck
This famous high-end restaurant is said by many to have the best Peking duck in Beijing. While its superb duck (298 yuan) is crisp, flavourful and not fatty, its other dishes are too flashy for our tastes, incorporating expensive ingredients such as caviar, foie gras, truffles, abalone and wagyu beef.
We tried the sautéed, fermented green bean tofu with black caviar (57 yuan for a medium-sized portion). The heavy taste of caviar clashed with the strongly flavoured garlicky tofu. We also found the poetically named sweet and sour pork ribs at snowy river (76 yuan for a standard portion) too sour. For all that, Da Dong’s trademark Peking duck makes the restaurant worth a visit.
Da Dong Roast Duck, 5/F Jinbao Shopping Mall, 88 Jinbao Street, Dongcheng district, Beijing, tel: +86 10 8522 1234