Let me start off by giving a brief background so I don’t have a bunch of people discrediting me for “not knowing anything”. QJD (Quan Ju De) is probably the most famous and widely known Peking Duck Specialty Restaurant, with it’s origins in Beijing. I personally have been to the original QJD Restaurant in Beijing and it was absolutely amazing, from the ambiance, decor, service and quality of food.
There are many different interpretations of “Authentic” Peking Duck. Without getting too off topic, the most widely accepted interpretation is the crispy skin Peking Duck variety, slices of crispy (but not dry) duck skin (usually with a little to moderate amount of meat), served with either a “pancake” or lotus bun with cucumber, scallions and a sweet sauce. Some purists will argue that true Peking Duck is skin only served exclusively with the pancakes. The Beijing QJD style uses the pancakes but you get three different cuts, one skin only, one sliced meat with strip of skin still attached, and one sliced meat – no skin. Regardless of preparation the crispy skin is the star of the dish.
As a brand new restaurant (open for less than a week as of this post), I can overlook mishaps in service and communications as any new restaurant will take some time to iron out all the details. The decor, I can sort of see they want to keep the traditional Chinese feel. But when you are seated and start to take it in, you get this odd sense that doesn’t fit with what you had in mind. The table covers feel plasticy, seats and cushion feel a bit off, super bright lighting, and the 90’s soft jazz playing overhead just gives a bit of a cheap feel to the place.
But nevermind the decor, the whole reason I came to the restaurant was for the Peking Duck. Which I order.
*Second Red Flag* There are two different options for Peking Duck on the menu. There is a “Special” Peking Duck, and a “Luxury” Peking Duck. The “Luxury” is the same as the “Special” but costs $10 more. For that $10 you get ketchup, Siracha, Plum Sauce, White Sugar, and an opportunity to pay an additional $4 for nuts.
After some brief moments of confusion between my waiter and, who I presume to be, the floor manager I am told that if I wanted the duck i would have to wait an hour for them to prepare it. No problem. In fact I would be suspect if they were able to bring it out right away. 30-40 minutes pass by and here comes the duck.
*Pause* History Lesson: There was once a fantastic Peking Duck Restaurant in Houston, one of the reasons they closed and did not reopen was that they were unable to find a chef or enough people who were skilled enough in carving the duck properly.
In many higher end restaurants that serve Peking duck, they will often carve the duck table side. It is as much a part of the Peking Duck experience as eating the duck itself, because you know, it’s Peking Duck…*Unpause*
So I am served this plate with this heaping pile of sliced duck. As I had mentioned before, QJD is known for having a serving of sliced duck with a bit of skin on it (albeit it usually came with the other preparations as well), so to that end, though not thrilled, I’m OK with it. BUT, the skin is not crispy at all. There is oil and fat everywhere and pooling underneath the pile. Many pieces had the skin detached from the meat and overall it was just a mess. It just looks unappetizing; you first eat with your eyes. A far, far cry from what any picture you can look up for Peking Duck looks like. In fact it looks more like your average roast duck, there is zero resemblance to Peking Duck other than it was in fact, duck. Taste-wise, it tastes like roast duck. That saying if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck definitely applies here. It is straight up roast duck that is being passed off as Peking Duck. If you don’t know or understand the difference I implore you to do some research (if I attempt to explain here, this post will go on forever).
Funny enough, the table next to me had ordered the same thing. Perhaps they thought I had ordered something else, but when their plate came out (which looked just like mine) they were completely miffed and confused as well.
After months of hype and more than a month of delay in opening, I can confidently say that QJD Peking Duck Houston does not even come close to living up to the name. Either big changes need to be made, or it will be destined to disappear and be just a tarnish on the QJD Franchise. But for now, this restaurant, in my honest opinion, does not deserve to bear the QJD badge as it is a disgrace to all other QJD Restaurants. If you are most known for Peking Duck and marketing for Peking Duck, I don’t care what anything else tastes like, that duck better shine.