Didn’t there used to be a famous duck restaurant somewhere out past San Gabriel? I just got back from Beijing, and I’d love to taste that fabulous duck again.
—P.G., Santa Monica
At the time it opened, Quanjude Beijing Duck Restaurant was a satellite of the famous duck restaurants in Beijing itself, and served 10-course duck dinners highlighted by the appearance of the best Beijing duck anybody around here has ever had, roasted in a special charcoal oven and carved into crisp little slivers of skin at the table. You smeared the duck with a little of the special bean sauce (not the ubiquitous hoisin), and folded it into prosciutto-thin wheat pancakes. It was to other versions of the duck in California restaurants what toro sashimi at Ginza Sushiko is to Star-Kist Chunk Lite Style. The original backers of the restaurant pulled out a few years ago, and the special dishes of gizzard, web and heart seemed to go away. The fish fillet in wine sauce disappeared off the menu. When I visited Quanjude a few weeks ago, the empty dining room echoed with shrieks and crashes coming from a fight in the kitchen. The stir-fry dishes were only fair. The milk-white duck-bone soup was slightly acrid. But the duck itself was just this side of spectacular, sweet and delicately crisp, slightly smoky and incredibly rich, worth at least an hour in jammed traffic on the 10. So, the duck — yes. Rosemead is far, but it’s still a little easier to get to than Beijing. 8450 E. Garvey Ave., No. 101, Rosemead; (626) 280-2378.