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the holiday season always involves a lot of eating, doesn’t it?

i thought this would be a relevant time to share my recent experiences at two Chinese restaurants in the GTA that offer peking duck (also called beijing style roast duck).

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first off, in case you are wondering, my Christmas meal still includes turkey, however peking duck is an any time of year tradition :)  secondly, while i have eaten peking duck in Beijing, this was several years ago, well before i developed an appreciation for what qualities make for a good one.  i had no clue that the bbq roast ducks hanging in the windows of chinese bbq takeout places weren’t really just one and the same.  i’m not sure that a lot of people do know the difference, having read comments about how many restaurants pass off bbq roast duck as peking duck.

what’s the difference? the coles notes version: peking duck involves more preparation steps prior to roasting, including separating the skin from the meat so the skin can really crisp up, and different flavouring ingredients are used.

there are countless places you can go for peking duck in the GTA, so why am i writing about these particular two?  most food aficionados would say these are the most authentically prepared and pretty much that makes them the best in the city.

and detailed reviews of restaurant meals is not usually my ‘thing’ either, but i guess i feel passionately enough about high quality peking duck that it warrants writing about it :)

restaurant #1:  Dayali (20 Gibson Dr, Unit 101-103, Markham, ON)– new-ish to the GTA scene, this is part of a popular (or so i’ve been led to believe) chain of Beijing restaurants specializing in peking duck.

price: gold medal duck – $38.88, VIP discounted price: $36.88 (a VIP membership costs $20 and lasts for 3 years.  if you go in groups of 4 or more, you can probably recoup the cost in a few visits).

most restaurants with peking duck on the menu offer it in a 2 or 3 course format.  if ordering 3 courses, one of them will be soup/broth.  Dayali only offers 1 course, but for a supplemental charge of $2.88, you can get the duck bones (cumin, salt and pepper, in soup).  it’s probably just the translation, because i’m pretty sure people don’t usually refer to the dish as the bones – focus is on the soup (made with the bones).

the first plate consisted of little crispy pieces of skin.  these are meant to be eaten sans wrap, the suggestion being to add a bit of sugar (i also liked the seasoned salt) that came as part of the condiments preceding the main dish.

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i really enjoyed the condiment/steamer stand.  i’m a huge fan of things that are designed well – functional, efficient and aesthetically pleasing (or inoffensive).  the steaming function to keep the wraps warm is a great touch (the menu refers to the wraps as blinis), and the condiments are nicely arranged at the base of this stand.  there’s sort of a built in lazy-susan, so you can spin it around to get to the condiments of your choosing.  traditional scallions and cucumber are present as well as the sauce for the duck.  this gold medal version also had grapes, the aforementioned sugar and seasoned salt, and some fried crunchy things.

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i was told that a way to tell peking duck is cooked properly is by examining the skin.  not only should it be crispy with a good crunch, there should be little to no fat between the skin and the meat.  with crispy skin attached to sliced meat that is used as filling within the wraps, in general every piece of skin served on this plate was consistent, crunchy and tasty!  the meat was pretty good too, and overall, little sight of fat.

the main course, served on a 'duck' plate

the main course, served on a ‘duck’ plate

and the soup — milky, flavourful with a nice mouth feel, and balanced seasoning, i really enjoyed it.  if this standard was upheld by other restaurants, i would order it often.  because it’s not, it’s probably worth paying the extra $ and trying it at least once at this place.

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the soup had some tofu and lettuce (or cabbage) in it

we tried some other dishes: spicy green beans (tasty, the right level of spice/heat for me), house special fried rice (just ok, a bit too oily).  wish there was room to try “gold dayali pears” which aren’t even actual pears, just made to look like some.  maybe next time!

the restaurant has a nice atmosphere and brightened from the light of the chandeliers.  it is busy a lot of the time, so go early.  reservations only taken for groups of 6 or more.

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how does Dayali compare to the other restaurant i tried?  stay tuned for the next post! :)

if you have eaten here, what were your experiences?  are there any recommended non-duck dishes to try?

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