It was Julie Huang, president and founder of Kaimen Co, a New York City-based public relations firm, who conceived the idea of Chinatown Restaurant Week with a group of close friends and colleagues who proudly call the neighborhood their home. Rather than wait for somebody to hire them to organize it, however, they decided to front the funding themselves.Through community outreach and countless partnerships, they managed to rope in 17 restaurants for its inaugural year, an impressive achievement. But the question remained – where to start?
“I think Delight 28 is going to surprise people the most,” Huang told us during a mid-day phone call on Restaurant Week’s opening day. “Nom Wah is great for friends to just kick back. It’s got an old school feel.” She told us that Red Egg, another participating restaurant, was elegant, the kind of place you’d stop on a more luxurious night on the town. She mentioned H.K. Wonton House, whose soupy noodles are so incredible that you’ll “never go back” after a single taste. Lastly, she spoke of Lobster Boat and Peking Duck House, two traditionally pricey spots, out of reach for most budget-minded Chinatown gastro-tourists… until today, that is. It was all we needed to hear – we were hooked on duck.
Directly across the street from Hop Kee, another Sunday in Chinatown favorite, Peking Duck House is one of only a handful of elegant dining establishments in Chinatown. As its name suggests, the restaurant does one thing well – very, very well – Peking duck. As we settled down at our impeccably arranged table and poured our first few cups of tea, we were brought two menus: the standard Peking Duck House menu, and the special Chinatown Restaurant Week menu, priced at $18.88 per person. In the spirit of the ‘holiday,’ we opted for the latter, of course.
Over the course of nearly two hours, we were brought dish after dish of Peking Duck Houses’s most delicious offerings, starting with the House Special Duck Soup, a savory broth filled with tofu, greens, and of course, tender duck (pictured top left). Next came the spring roll and steam dumpling, one of the best we’ve had yet in Chinatown (pictured top right). The highlight of the evening followed – the Peking duck roll (pictured bottom left). Crisp strips of Peking duck rested inside a shell filled with green scallions, truly one of the neighborhood’s finest moments. Last before our main entree was our vegetable dish – Eggplant and minced pork floating in a sea of garlicky goodness (pictured bottom right).
With negative amounts of space remaining in our stomach cavities for anything of substance, we warily descended upon the main entree – sesame chicken. Call it an act of God, or maybe just countless cups of digestion-friendly hot tea, but we were able to house the whole dish, one of the few I’ve ever had that really did sesame chicken any justice. As the afternoon waned and we began to realize that we had no idea what time it was (the previous night’s time change didn’t help things), we finished off our dining marathon with a dish of fried banana and walnuts and lumbered out into the daylight.
At the end of the day, Chinatown Restaurant Week’s true purpose is to not only attract new faces to Chinatown, but also get regulars try something they’ve never tried before. Chinatown Restaurant Week’s menus are meant to give you a taste for the quality of food you can find here – and they’ve done an incredible job. In fact, I’ve already begun planning my return trip to Peking Duck House… to tackle a whole duck this time, of course. Lucky for you, the fun isn’t over yet… not even close. CRW goes until next Sunday, and we urge even the most seasoned of Chinatown eaters to try it out. We’re so glad we did.