Not the action; the food is what we’re talking here. As in Peking Duck.
Peking duck preparation is elaborate, involved, time-consuming. China Gourmet’s head chef Larry Brutsche has been preparing Peking duck for more than three decades (35 years at China Gourmet), and he says it’s his favorite item on the menu.
“It’s so-o-o-o good. The way I do it, (the duck) turns out with crispy skin, really crispy skin. We marinate the duck in grenadine and then hang it up to dry it, for as long as 24 hours, then roast it and it comes out looking like this,” he said, pointing to one that was ready to serve.
Once the order is made, the duck is cut in half, and some of the fat is removed as the meat is removed from the bones and presented at table. The duck is served with fresh bean sprouts in a hoisin and garlic sauce.
Brutsche said Peking duck not only is his favorite, but the favorite of many regular patrons who come to China Gourmet specifically for the iconic Asian entrée. Those who report on Chinese restaurant foods claim that the meat almost becomes a secondary attraction to the crispy skin, and the chef agrees. “They (patrons) love the skin.”
In China, what now is called Beijing duck or Pekin duck has been enjoyed for a while – since the third century CE, to be more precise. As an ethnic specialty, there are several ways to enjoy this classic dish, including with spring onions, pickled radishes, cucumbers, bean sprout sauce and hoisin sauce. Tradition in China also includes the “spring” pancake-style wrapping that generally is part of a meal of Peking duck.
Also popular in this avian category is mu shu duck. Again, the crispy skin is a feature of the dish. The duck is presented at table with a stir-fry of bamboo shoots, Napa cabbage, pea pods and carrots and served with Chinese “doilies” or the aforementioned spring pancake-style wraps similar to but different from tortillas. The doilies are Chinese in composition and origin, coming from Northern China and being a symbol of spring rebirth.
“I call them Chinese burritos, but with a plummy hoisin sauce,” said Jesse Lear, general manager at China Gourmet. “They sort of look like that and the mu shu dishes are very popular as well. People love to share dishes here, and our entrée dishes are sharable in size, large really, and the duck, along with the spicy Thai chicken are two of the ones people really like a lot.”
That said, there are dozens of choices on the menu at China Gourmet. Many of them are established classic entree dishes such as Mongolian beef, cashew chicken, moo goo gai pan, sweet and sour chicken, beef with snow peas, Szechuan specialties, Kung Pao specialties and more.
Lear said all are popular and have followings among patrons, but some, such as the spicy Thai chicken, are at the top of the popularity charts. We tried that entree but throttled back a bit on the spicy part. The dish had some kick to it, which was just enough for our taste buds. The spice profile is derived from Thai pepper Szechuan sauce, which adds depth of flavor to the battered chicken, the veggies and the rice.
The chicken chunks in this spicy dish are delicious, and easy to eat with chopsticks, which is a plus in my book. A pet peeve of mine when eating Chinese is when the chunk items in the entree are too large to be easily eaten with chopsticks. The diner must resort to a knife and fork to cut them up. Takes some of the fun out of eating Chinese, don’t you think?
Getting back to the spice profile of Thai chicken, Lear said: “That’s a good point to emphasize with Jewish diners wanting to eat kosher-style. We customize anything, and not just how spicy a dish is. All our patrons have to do is ask and we will do it for them. People trade out veggies, or want a dish with a different sauce, or more of this and less of that. We do it all the time.”
Lear said that all the sauces at China Gourmet are made in house. For instance, she said 11 different ingredients go into the making of the Szechuan sauce. Ingredients include sugar, soy, ginger, garlic and more, cooked together and then strained to achieve the essence of the sauce.
“We add the spices separately, so that diners can have the spiciness they want – really, really hot, or at the other end, mild with no real heat to it,” she said.
Lear wanted patrons to know that soon the bar at China Gourmet will feature barrel-aged Manhattan cocktails. The barrel is positioned on the bar, and the aging process is from 8 to 12 weeks.
“We’re really excited about the specially aged cocktails,” Lear said.
Sounds good to me.
See you at China Gourmet!
3340 Erie Ave.
Cincinnati, Ohio, 45208