Cantonese restaurant

Review: The Beijing Duck at Quan Ju De is legendary and its location in Vancouver doesn’t disappoint

Chef Wang Yu serves the restaurant’s signature Peking Duck at Quan Ju De in Vancouver on October 5, 2021.

Taehoon Kim / The Globe and Mail

Name: Beijing iden & quan ju duck house

Site: 2808 Cambie Street, Vancouver

Telephone: 236-477-7777

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Food: Modern Peking Duck

Prices: Peking ducks, $ 98; appetizers and soups, $ 12 to $ 138; sector, $ 32 to $ 58; superior sea cucumber, abalone and bird’s nest, $ 68 to $ 360 per person.

Additional information: Open every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. heated terrace, delivery via Door Dash and UberEats; ducks require 55 minutes to prepare if they are not pre-ordered.

Vancouver’s flashiest new Chinese restaurant may have plenty of bites on gold platters, but its legendary cracked-skinned Peking duck isn’t one of them. The roast duck is exemplary.

Quan Ju De, which opened with ominous fanfare in February 2020 shortly after a jeep crashed through its front windows at the 12th and Cambie, comes from a venerable lineage stretching back to the Qing dynasty.

The iconic Peking duck at Quan Ju De. One of China’s most renowned roast duck chains, Quan Ju De serves more than two million ducks a year on four continents.

Taehoon Kim / The Globe and Mail

Today one of China’s most renowned roast duck chains – serving over two million ducks a year across four continents – the original Beijing restaurant was founded in 1864. It was then that an owner of he company poached an Imperial Palace chef, adapted a treasured recipe for hanging ducks above open flames, and presented royal delicacy to the upper-class masses.

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In modern history, Quan Ju De has become even more famous for playing a central role in Cold War “duck diplomacy”. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was the premier state banquet venue for Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, who hosted many foreign figures at his Beijing hangout, including Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, and Fidel Castro. .

Today, there are 55 Quan Ju De affiliates in China alone. The first Canadian outpost opened four years ago in Markham, Ontario.

But the $ 12 million Vancouver branch was supposed to be one of the flashiest of them all.

Every nook and cranny, from banquet cushions to lavish bathrooms, are gilded with gold. The walls are covered with blocks of Chinese wood. From high ceilings, a skyline of Beijing’s most important architectural landmarks hangs upside down.

The restaurant is aptly called iDen & Quan Ju De Beijing Duck House because it was supposed to present Canada’s first 5D dining experience with immersive wall screens and projected animation – try imagining FlyOver Canada (or Shanghai) in a private dining room with a little Ratatouille A Disney creature is dancing on your table.

There are 55 branches of Quan Ju De in China alone, but the $ 12 million Vancouver branch was said to be one of the flashiest of them all.

Taehoon Kim / The Globe and Mail

The COVID-19 pandemic has postponed the iDen experience. But the restaurant still charges a VIP membership fee, ranging from $ 3,000 to $ 8,000, for the use of the private rooms, one of which has a huge lazy susan on a banquet table that seats up to 20. people.

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Most recently, the restaurant featured Bella, a robotic waiter who moves around the dining room to help deliver plates and keep kids entertained.

Remember, these robots turn into a dime in local Chinese restaurants, posing neither a threat to human labor nor noticeable help.

In my most recent of three visits, the only time I went without a Chinese dinner, the service was so slow that I sat in the restaurant for an hour and 15 minutes before being given a drink.

A little later, when I asked him why we had only been served pea tips Рpremium pea tips, that said, saut̩ed in white spirit (baijiu) Рour server, who kept disappearing. for long periods, apologized.

“I thought you wanted to be served gourmet style, not with the dishes rushed all together, Chinese style,” he said.

Bring the other dishes, Bella.

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For all of its modern pretensions, which include an English menu, a wide selection of alcoholic beverages and the stated intention to be a ‘fusion of traditional Chinese cuisine with a North American twist. [sic]Quan Ju De is not an easy-to-navigate restaurant for Westerners.

The five-spiced game is theatrically served in a giant smoke-blowing goldfish bowl

Taehoon Kim / The Globe and Mail

We may not be ordering enough luxury menu items – the A5 Wagyu, the 15-Head Superior Japanese Dried Yoshihama Abalone for $ 360 per person, or the caviar add-ons at $ 100.

We ordered a few of the high performing fusion dishes, including five spice game, served in theater in a bowl of giant smoke-puffed goldfish (tender, but could have been any meat as all that we could taste was the hot, star anise – inflected spices).

And on this and other occasions, I have eaten several modest and humble dishes executed with good ingredients and skillful skill.

There was a deeply heartwarming Beijing-style flour dumpling soup, with chunks of fresh tomatoes and silky egg drops in a richly reduced broth; a braised mapo tofu with spicy sea cucumber and Sichuan lemon green pepper; and lightly smoked yellow croaker, a Shanghai-style fish, fried to a soft crisp and slightly iced.

But at the end of the night, after splitting the bill, leaving our server with a 25 percent tip, honestly, I didn’t expect him to come running after me, wondering what the hell was wrong. was wrong and why I had not left. anything on my credit card. (We left the tip in cash, which he didn’t bother to count.)

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Despite all my complaints, I don’t have a bad thing to say about Peking Duck (also known, but not correctly) as Peking Duck.

It’s pricey, at $ 98 a duck, but it’s no different from other Peking ducks in Vancouver, which are quite different from the cheaper Cantonese Peking-style ducks.

The meat is a bit bland, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. Cantonese ducks are marinated with a five-spice seasoning, which gives them even more oomph. Peking ducks, which are marinated only with maltose on the skin and left to dry overnight before roasting (which makes them take longer to prepare), have nothing to hide behind.

Quan Ju De ducks might be juicier in China (I can’t say, I only tried them here) but that’s mainly because in Canada they aren’t allowed to be force-fed and fattened quickly. Good thing I think most people would agree.

They are only served in two dishes: with the crispy and golden-lacquered breast skin cut next to the table into thin slices, which you then dip in granules of raw sugar to make the pig fat burst; and in slices of meat lined with more of that cracked skin, to wrap in hot, thin pancakes with strips of green onions, cucumber and hoisin sauce.

I don’t know why the rest of the duck isn’t served in lettuce wraps or sautéed in rice, as is typical in Cantonese restaurants. But I suspect the difference has something to do with the frugal, country ideals of Cantonese cuisine.

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And the tradition – this is how they have done in Beijing for 800 years.

However, Quan Ju De wraps the fleshy carcass and sends you home with it. And for a few more dollars, you can order the gizzards or the duck bone soup.

So there is really nothing to complain about. At least not when it comes to the duck.

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