More Than Peking Duck : Da Dong

I am getting slower with the backlog of updates and more boring with my posts. Now that I have managed to get more sleep and time for reading, hopefully I can be literate and funny. I needed some time to collect my thoughts before blogging about this amazing meal at Da Dong.

Anyhow, I had an amazing 18 course degustation menu at the legendary Peking Duck restaurant some weeks ago. I haven’t been there in the last 6 months, the food is good as always, but it’s only this time that I discovered the gastronomic extraordinaire in him. Molecular gastronomy is a trend that never died in China. All the food writers and editors I know equate great food with El Bulli, even though none I know have been.

I guess Dong’s menu is the answer to all that interest, curiosity and hype, filling the hunger for innovative, creative cuisine in Beijing. And, I have to say, it was very impressive and pretty damn good, save for the mid-dinner theatrics of cooking chocolate mousse in liquid nitrogen. That was the ‘cleanse the palate course’ for diners to have smoke come out of their nostrils a la dragons. Seems like many restaurants are doing it these days as gimmicks yields good response from the press. I know Bo Innovation in HK does it, as does FINDS restaurant/bar shared by Victoria Cheng @ GastroNOMmy.

Like in advertising creatives, nothing is original these days and I suppose a good chef is good at copying, I’m a tad disappointed finding out none of Dong’s dishes are quite his own—still they are tasty, beautiful and most importantly accessible to the Asian palate, relating it back to classical poetry and culture.

These capsicum capsules are inspired by the molecular techniques of Ferran Adria.

Beautifully poetic and tender sweet pork ribs in green plum sauce plated like a Chinese landscape painting. Upon serving they sprinkle icing over it symbolising snowfall and spout verses from a classical Chinese poem with huge dramatic movements of their arms doing the sprinkling, making the performance look more like lunacy than poetry.

This dish is my favourite, tomatoes coated with champagne jelly stuffed with deep fried crunchy mushrooms that had such a wide range of textures and flavours, it was a real tongue teaser. About a year ago, I tried this dish but it was stuffed with honey coated walnuts. The mushrooms work way better.

Foie gras (French import, Dong has published a whole cookbook on foie gras with this supplier) with lotus root and osmanthus. It was such a pleasure looking at this and then eating it. Lotus root with a hint of honey and foie gras, who would have thought it’d work.
One of my favourites was the Canadian Geoduck Clam with the prickly tease of green Sichuan pepper and salt. It was fantastic though admittedly I was more thrilled by the beautiful presentation. The Chinese call it the elephant trunk clam… but to me, it just looks phallic.

An amazing chawamushi sort dish with huge chunks of Alaskan king crab with shaoxing wine, served alongside a very spicy sichuan pepper ice cream and some mantou. It tasted like all the edible things in the sea distilled in a bowl decorated with wonderful corals.

Doing the over rated liquid nitrogen thing..

Chinese yam cooked with lily bulbs. A modern twist to the teowchew dessert I used to have as a kid in Chinese restaurants, the Orh nee, sweet sticky yam dessert with gingko nuts. The fish roe looking things are filled with rose syrup done with ‘molecular techniques’.

Finally an amazing mango sago cream ice dessert with pomelo and Beijing yogurt. Beautiful presentation, but it appears to be an alternative version of NOMA’s pastry chef’s creation, now with Singapore’s Les Amis.

Dong is an amazing creative chef who travels around the globe to hang out with celebrity chefs and exchange notes. I’m sure he and Heston Blumenthal exchanged a few notes about making fun projects in the kitchen during the latter’s visit to Beijing in search of making the perfect roast duck!

I didn’t forget the mandatory orders of Peking duck. Everyone started going at it so quickly there was no time to get photos of that.

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