Nestled down a narrow lane five-minutes from the Zhongshan Junior High School (中山國中) MRT Station, Peking Gathering Garden Restaurant serves up Peking duck in the classic "one duck, three ways" (一鴨三吃) style. This trio of dishes must be ordered at least one hour in advance and consists of a roast dish, soup and a fried dish (NT$980).
Peking Gathering is a plain, family-style restaurant consisting of two large rooms, with fastidious waitresses and large circular banquet tables that, on weekends, are packed full of diners.
On a recent Sunday our party decided to order a few starters before moving on to the duck. The flat mung bean noodles with shredded chicken and sesame paste (雞絲拉皮, NT$158) excited the taste buds with a zesty hint of wasabi that contrasted nicely with the sesame flavor. The minced shrimp cooked with a fried bread stick and wrapped in fresh lettuce (生菜蝦鬆, NT$378) was also excellent. The shrimp was fresh, and the savory bread stick combined with the lettuce to leave a light aftertaste on the palate, which prepared us for the duck.
After removing the appetizers, our server returned with the first of the three "one duck, three ways" courses: a plate of duck skin and dark meat thinly sliced off the top of the duck served with a bowl of black hoisin sauce (海鮮醬), a stack of warm pancakes, and a plate of horizontally sliced fresh spring onions and cucumber. You fold the meat and vegetables into the pancake - the sauce is usually added by dipping the scallions into the bowl before placing them on the pancake - and eat the wrap by hand.
Our table generally agreed that the duck meat was a little dry, a sign that it had been overcooked, and the skin was too chewy and not crispy enough. The meat's texture disappointed my fellow diners because they had all eaten at Peking Gathering several times before and on previous visits had always found the meat to be moist and succulent.
Address: 39, Alley 25, Ln 113, Minsheng E Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市民生東路三段113巷25弄39號)
Telephone: (02) 2718-5477
Open: Daily from 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 9pm
Average meal: NT$1,200 for a party of four
Details: Chinese menu; credit cards accepted
The second course, however, was far more satisfying. This was soup made from the duck's bones, with glass noodles, tofu, scallions and pickled cabbage - the latter adding a sour flavor to balance the saltiness of the marrow. The vegetables and tofu absorbed much of the oil in the broth, leaving it with a light aftertaste.
Our table didn't order the third dish, duck meat fried in pickled cabbage. My friends said that while the cabbage provides a delicate balance to the flavor of the duck in the soup, it overpowers the meat in this dish.