Name: Aiden and Quan Xu Day Beijing Duck House
Location: 2808 Camby St., Vancouver
food: modern beijing duck
Prices: Beijing Duck, $98; Appetizers and Soups, $12 to $138; Main, $32 to $58; Better Sea Cucumber, Abalone, and Bird’s Nest, $68 to $360 per person.
Additional Information: Open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Heated patio, door dash and delivery via UberEats; The ducks require 55 minutes of preparation time if not pre-ordered.
Vancouver’s hottest new Chinese restaurant may offer many morsels on a gold platter, but its legendary, flabby-skinned Peking duck isn’t one of them. The roast duck is exemplary.
Quan Ju Day, which opened with ominous fanfare in February of 2020, comes from the venerable dynasty that goes back to the Qing dynasty, shortly after it crashed through the front windows of a jeep in Kembi, 12th and Kembi.
Now one of China’s best-known roast duck chains—serving more than two million ducks a year across four continents—the original Beijing restaurant was founded in 1864. That’s when an enterprising owner hunted down a chef from the royal palace for a preciously preserved recipe. Ducklings were hung over open flames and served a royal dish to the upper class.
In modern history, Quan Ju Dae became even more famous for playing a key role in the Cold War “Duck Diplomacy”. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was the state-banquet venue of choice for Premier Zhou Enlai, who hosted many foreign dignitaries including Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon and Fidel Castro at his favorite seven-story Beijing venue.
Today, there are 55 Quan Xu De allies in China alone. The first Canadian outpost opened four years ago in Markham, Ont.
But the $12 million Vancouver branch was intended to be one of the most spectacular of them all.
From the banquet-seat cushions to the plush bathroom, every nook and cranny is gilded. The walls are covered in Chinese wood block art. From high ceilings, a skyline of Beijing’s most prominent architectural landmarks hang upside down.
The restaurant is appropriately called Eyeden & Quan Ju De Beijing Duck House because it was to offer Canada’s first 5-D dining experience with immersive wall screens and projected animations – a private dining room in Flyover Canada (or Shanghai). Try to imagine. Some ratatouille Disney creatures dancing on your table.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the suspension of the iDen experience. But the restaurant is still charging VIP membership fees ranging from $3,000 to $8,000 for use of the private rooms, one of which boasts a giant lazy Susan at the banquet table that fits upwards of 20 people.
Recently, the restaurant introduced Bella, a robotic server that helps distribute plates and entertain kids around the dining room.
Mind you, these robots are becoming a dime a dozen at local Chinese restaurants, which are neither a threat to the human labor force nor a more significant aid.
On my most recent three visits, the only time I went without a Chinese diner was the service so slow, I sat at the restaurant for a full hour and 15 minutes before getting a drink.
A little later, when I asked why we were only served pea recipe – premium pea recipe, he said, stir-fried in white spirit (baijiu) – our server, who had been missing for a long time, was apologetic.
“I thought you wanted to be served in a fine dining style, not all dishes squeezed together, Chinese style,” he said.
Bring other dishes, Bella.
For all its modern pretensions, which include an English-language menu, a wide selection of alcoholic beverages and intended to be “a fusion of traditional Chinese food with a North American flare”. [sic], “Kwan Ju De is not an easy restaurant for Westerners to navigate.
It could be that we just weren’t ordering enough of the luxury menu item—the A5 Wagyu, the superior Japanese 15-head-sized dried Yoshihama abalone for $360 per person or the $100 caviar add-on.
We ordered some high-performing fusion items, including five-spice venison, served in a giant goldfish bowl with dramatic smoke (tender, but could have any meat as we all tasted hot). , star-anise- chopped spice).
And on this occasion and on other occasions, I ate humble dishes made with very low-cost, fine ingredients and clever skill.
The Beijing-style dough-dumpling soup was a deeply comforting soup with silky egg yolks in chunky and richly reduced broth with fresh tomatoes; a braised mapo tofu with sea cucumber tingle with Citrus Green Sichuan Peppercorns; and lightly smoked yellow croaker, a Shanghai-style fish, deep-fried to a tender crisp and sweetly glazed.
But at the end of the night, when we split the bill, leaving our server with a 25-cent tip, I honestly didn’t expect him to come following me, asking what went wrong and I told him. Why didn’t I leave anything on my credit card? (We left the tip in cash, which he didn’t even bother to count.)
For all my complaints, I don’t have a single bad thing to say about the Beijing duck (also known, but not properly) as the Peking duck.
It is expensive, $98 per duck, but not in line with any other Beijing ducks in Vancouver, which are quite different from the less expensive Cantonese Peking-style ducks.
The flesh is a bit soft, but that’s what it means. Cantonese ducks are marinated with five-spice seasonings, which give them that extra punch. Beijing ducks, which are marinated with maltose only with the skin on and hung to dry overnight before roasting (which makes them take longer to prepare), have nothing to hide.
Quan ju de duc may be juicier in China (I can’t say, I’ve only tried them here) but that’s mainly because in Canada, they’re not allowed to be force-fed and fattened quickly. Good point, I think most people would agree.
They’re served in just two courses: tableside carved into thin strips with crunchy, golden-lacquered breast skin, which you dip into raw sugar granules to pop the porcine fatness; And edged with that rough skin in fleshy slices, to wrap with chunks of scallion, cucumber and hoisin sauce in warm, whisk-thin crepes.
I don’t know why leftover duck isn’t served in lettuce wraps or stir-fried over rice, as is the case in Cantonese restaurants. But I suspect the difference has something to do with the frugal, farmhouse ideals of Cantonese cookery.
And tradition – they’ve been doing it in Beijing for 800 years.
However, Quan Ju De wraps the fleshy carcass and sends you home with him. And for a few extra dollars, you can order gizzard or duck bone soup.
So really nothing to complain about. At least not when it comes to ducks.
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