A totally irrelevant story from the pre-corona days

A long, long time ago, maybe three-weeks, my friend Bill Lee recommended the Golden Wok for lunch. He said their Peking Duck is out of the world.

I really haven’t heard anyone ordering or talking about that imperial dish for many years. Some very iconic retro dishes such as Sole Veronique or Beef Wellington, Borscht or Goulash vanished from menus over the past decades, even Sachertorte, cannot be found anywhere except in Vienna, and thus the expensive, labor-intense, cruel and calorific Peking Duck disappeared too, and I did not miss it.

Until Bill sent me by WhatsApp the picture of the flattened, shiny, sugar and soy caramelized fowl, ready to be carved, then I really had to have it once more in my life, and I apologize in advance to the duck, and to the society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, but the picture was irresistible.   

Many years ago, the late Roger Coster, a Peking Duck aficionado, took me on a whirlwind tour in China Town, New York, I think we stopped at three different Pekin Duck emporiums, holes in the wall restaurants, on our quest to find the best.

We stopped to admire the orange-hued hanging-to-dry ducks displayed in windows, so mouth-watering and decadent. At the time, Peking Duck came to represent China, as it received worldwide recognition, having been named a trademark in 1999. Even Fidel Castro called it his personal favorite. We did too.

So one cool October day, my birthday month, we roamed China Town in search of the perfect duck, and we waited patiently at each of the restaurants we picked, for the delicacy to be served.

Pekin Duck is carved table side. The crisp dry-roasted skin is served first, with just a little meat attached. Then the chef rolls up some of the shavings into paper thin steamed pancakes, spread with sweet bean sauce, topped with spring onions, and cucumber sticks for the crunch, between bites. The first rolled tubes are ceremoniously prepared by the chef, then he retires to the kitchen and lets diners roll their own, with a little or a lot of all remaining ingredients. Everybody likes to play with their food and there is always some left for take-out.

So, Bill urged me to call chef Anthony Tam — famous last name in Chinese restaurant circles — and discuss a culinary experience with him. As I found out later, Chef Tam recently took the Golden Wok restaurant over and has been collecting fans, since opening day.

We were welcomed into a typical Chinese restau, red lanterns and some left over Christmas decorations. The chef asked which channel we wanted on overhead TV, then returned to the kitchen to put the finishing touches on our customized deluxe meal.

We were five on the occasion, and we brought our own wine. No corking fee.

Chef Tam started us with a clear duck broth then a family style platter of spring rolls, tuna sashimi and steamed dumplings. The piece de resistance, the duck, with all delicious accoutrements, hailed from the kitchen on a platter with artistically carved radishes, for decorations. A large platter of fresh fish cooked three ways followed, the fish practically swam to our table. It was paired with a hooiberg of mixed fried rice.

No dessert yet. Chef Tam says soon, as he expands his hours of operation.

Call ahead to order your Peking Duck, one day in advance, you may order a full one or half!

For now, you must stay at home, but put this on your future bucket list.


Share on:

March 27, 2020
Rona Coster