Some blog posts write themselves. This is one of them. The following sequence of photos shows the courses in the order in which they were served.
Poached chicken in chilli oil with fruit salad shot - after eating the spicy chicken, you tackle the hollow tube of fruit salad. I was instructed to suck through the bottom to taste the mango puree first, followed by fruit, and ending with foam.
Spare ribs & sour plum arranged in a Chinese landscape - as our waitress sprinkled the icing sugar 'snow' onto the landscape, she recited a famous Chinese poem by Su Dongpo. This would've been self-indulgent if it hadn't been so damn tasty.
Roast beef with potatoes - I thought it was really clever how this dish looks 'European' but tastes Chinese. The trail of 'dust' consists of ground chilli and Sichuan pepper.
Stir-fried fish fillets – these were arranged in fried fish skin with a spoon of white pepper dip (off photo). Perfectly cooked.
Braised Chinese leaf with chestnuts – usually such a boring vegetable, the rich creamy chicken stock based sauce lifted the humble Chinese leaf to new heights. Apparently this is an re-interpretation of a famous Shandong dish.
Pak choi with braised mushrooms – I'm not sure what type of mushroom (similar to Chanterelle?) featured in this dish but they sure as hell absorbed a lot of flavour.
Chicken consommé with snow fungus & bamboo pith – a super clean tasting soup and a perfect palate cleanser for what was to follow. Students of Chinese cuisine will understand that the two kinds of fungus are there for texture.
With the exception of the ribs and the fish, the courses were served individually 'Western-style'. In some cases, I feared that the Blumenthal-esque presentation might have been at the expense of flavour. I needn't have worried as each dish passed the taste test with flying colours. But for all the excellence of these seven courses, they were merely a prelude to the signature dish of Peking duck (Beijing kaoya 北京烤鸭) at Dadong Roast Duck Restaurant (大董烤鸭店).
Peking duck is a must eat when visiting China's capital and this is the place to do it in style. Roasted in a traditional wood-fired oven, the bird is leaner than most with super-crispy skin and very tender meat. The duck is carved at the table and served with the usual accoutrements alongside the more unusual such as the sesame buns (zhima shaobing 芝麻烧饼), which I preferred to the traditional pancakes. The highlight was the crispy skin, which I liked eating the modern way by dipping into sugar. To round off this veritable feast, milky duck soup was served.
There were desserts but without sounding churlish, fresh fruit and sorbet seemed a bit out of kilter with the previous nine courses. But that's a minor quibble as this was the culinary highlight of my visit to Beijing. Chef Dong is a genius and if he was plying his trade in London or Paris, he'd possess Michelin stars. Big thanks to my colleagues for bringing me here and for ordering so well.
Dadong is quite bling and if you fancy an earthier (and cheaper) Peking duck experience then I recommend Ya Wang (鸭王). Whilst the former is undoubtedly a better all round restaurant, there isn't much in it between the two when it comes to the duck.
Dadong Roast Duck Restaurant 1-2 Nanxincang International Plaza, 22A Dongsishitiao, Dongcheng District, Beijing (Tel: +86-10-5169-0329)
PS: I did take a look at the bilingual menu and it would make a great coffee table book with its amazing photos. However with the exception of the Peking duck, I have no idea what any of the dishes are actually called in English or Chinese.