I have often considered Peking duck to be my death row meal (it changes at times but usually bounces back to this) but I am picky. In Australia, even a half arsed Peking duck gets my mouth watering because any roast duck is better than no roast duck. In China, I've tasted a spectrum between "awesomely authentic" and "wannabe" and the difference is huge. Knowing how good it can potentially be, I feel like it's a huge missed opportunity to get anything less than perfection when ordering roast duck in China.
Needless to say, in Beijing the expectations were even higher. As a food blogger, it often surprises people to hear that when I go traveling, I don't research restaurants I want to try. The reason is that as much as I love food, the stress of finding addresses in unfamiliar cities and having to get there by a certain time is just not worth the trouble for me. I also think great overseas food experiences can be had by simply trying their street food or casual eateries.
Having said that, you can see the enormity of pressure I put on Beijing to present me with perfect Peking duck because for once, I actually researched and made a booking. I cross referenced a few articles and short listed any restaurant that was mentioned multiple times. I then looked over at TripAdvisor reviews and ended up choosing Made In China. At first I was keen to go to one of the "original" Peking duck restaurants like Quan Jude but I found a lot of feedback about how they rely on their reputation of being the first restaurants to perfect Peking duck to attract tourists and that the actual quality of duck is not necessarily the best.
Made in China is a modern restaurant located at the ground floor of Grand Hyatt Beijjng city. As well as duck, they offer what is essentially fine dining Chinese cuisine with western considerations such as an extensive wine menu and English speaking staff.
You'd rightfully expect a fine dining price tag and with drinks, our meal for two came to just under $150 Australian (note: currency exchange rate wasn't great when we traveled). That's probably similar to what we would pay for an equal caliber restaurant in Australia.
Marc and I wanted to focus on roast duck so we ordered a whole duck to share, and a side of greens. I was a bit confused about the whole duck because in my previous experience, Peking duck is normally served over 2-3 courses with the skin shaved off to make wraps and the meat and bone returned for a serve of noodles or soup. I read "soup" in the menu description but we didn't end up getting soup so I'm not sure if that was an interpretation error.
The ducks themselves are roasted whole in a woodfire oven. The kitchen is completely open to viewing so I spend some time observing the process.
We confirmed our duck order when we made the booking so it didn't take too long to be served. A waiter wheeled out our duck and started expertly cleaving slices off. We were first presented with a place of duck skin (no meat), which we were instructed to dip in sugar and eat on its own.
Crispy duck skin dipped in sugar
Delicious. So crispy. So rich and decadent. I could definitely not finish off an entire plate on my own but the slices I did have were heavenly. The sugar somehow compliments the crunchy duck skin and cuts through the fattiness. I say "fattiness" but the skin was perfectly rendered so that there was no actual layer of fat left in any duck that we ate.
The rest of the surface of duck was duck into slices containing both skin and meat. We were instructed to wrap these pieces with sauce, cucumber and/or shallot whites. I'm not actually sure what the purpose of the pickled daikon was. I ate that on its own.
Our place of seasonal greens ended up being stir-fried cabbage. This sounds boring but was actually very delicious. It had a fiery wok flame taste that we loved but the fact is as soon as the duck was brought out, I completely forgot about the veggies.
Ready to be wrapped
Marc and I enjoyed our experience at Made in China. It was at the pricier end of restaurants we tried in China but was worth it in terms of classy fit out, professional and friendly service and most importantly, perfected roasted Peking duck.