Qianmen Roast Duck
Qianmen Roast Duck, far from a high-end restaurant, is possessed of two main virtues: first, its proximity to the front gate of Tiananmen Square makes it extremely convenient after a morning of sightseeing beginning at the rear gate of the Forbidden City and continuing downward through to the Zhengyang Gate; and second, unlike Da Dong Roast Duck, Quanjude or Made in China, all of which are marvelous but also infested with tourists, Quianmen is an authentic local experience, entirely off the tourist map. There is no English spoken, and the menu is filled with a fair amount of exotica, but stick with the basics and you will survive.
The Peking Duck is excellent and, best of all, comes with a bowl of unidentifiable soupy substance which we almost left untried on account of satiation and suspicion. It would have, however, been the biggest mistake of our trip: I still don’t know what it was – most likely some type of duck stock – and I’m not sure I want to know, but it was like drinking nectar of the gods. It haunts my memory as few dishes from the world’s greatest restaurants ever have.