Tuesday 12 November 2013

Peking Duck at Yming Soho

Not last weekend but the one before we joined friends at Dumplings Legend to celebrate Ellen's birthday. I've been trying to get Paul into London for soup dumplings for about two years now and he's been a bit ornery so this is the first time I have succeeded. It was lovely - good food, excellent company and the usual patchy service - and apparently he got a taste for it, because I got an email a few days later from a friend informing me that Paul and her husband had agreed that we would go to Chinatown for dinner on Saturday.

Penny has a lot of contacts in the Soho restaurant business, and she recommended YMing, on Greek St. I perused the menu online (so irritating when restaurants have a website that doesn't have one, or has a "sample seasonal menu" that hasn't been updated in more than a year) and noticed that they do Peking duck, if you order in advance. As I hadn't had Peking duck since we moved to this country (you don't see it that often on menus, too labour-intensive I guess) and one of my most memorable food experiences involved it, I was pretty keen to give it a go.

At some restaurants when you order Peking duck you just get one course, the duck with pancakes. Sometimes you get the pancakes plus a course of sang choy bow or stirfried duck and beanshoots. Sometimes you get a third course of the duck bones made into a broth. As the menu didn't give any hints, we asked our waiter what else we needed to order. He said that it was going to be the three course full catastrophe, so recommended that we order some starters, then have the duck, then see how we fared.

So we did. He raised his eyebrows politely and queried our decision to have three starters with the same deep-fried spicy salt coating, but they were all delicious and I have no regrets. And of course, we were drinking a deliciously fruity Hugel et fils Gewurztraminer from the not-particularly-cheap wine list which was just the thing with deep fried salty snacks.
The soft shell crab was superb. Utterly greaseless and properly soft-shelled, not with the little bits that get stuck in your teeth that you often encounter. It was quite a small portion to share between four, and if we hadn't had so much other food coming I would have wanted another plate.
Scallops Delight was one of the more expensive starters, at £11, but we decided to order it anyway. Four huge scallops filled with a prawn paste, then deep-fried. Hot as hell inside, so there was much sucking of cooling air around the mouthfuls, but really delicious. I would be faintly surprised if they were genuinely scallops though - the texture and flavour were about right but they were so big!
I also insisted on the aubergine chips, which turned out to be much more French fry-sized than the robust chippy-sized chips I've usually had. Which meant more spicy salt per bite. No bad thing. Although it did mean that we pretty quickly needed to order another bottle of wine.
Yes, those are morello cherries
Then the duck happened. Perfectly lacquered skin, as crisp as toffee. Moist, richly flavoured meat. The finest pancakes I have ever tried, thin enough to read a newspaper through. Hoi sin sauce, cucumber and spring onion shards. A reverent silence fell as we rolled pancake after pancake.
The next duck course was the broth. Light and very clean tasting, full of chunks of the carcass with quite generous amounts of meat still waiting to be sucked off the bones, big crunchy wombok leaves and wedges of fresh tomato. It really was the perfect interlude between courses, almost serving the role of the palate-cleansing sorbet. But much less likely to totally numb the palate and ruin the wine (the second bottle of which had gone the way of the first).
I forgot until the very last minute to take a picture
While we sipped the broth we decided that we were very nearly full, so we only needed some rice and one other dish with our final course of duck and bean shoots.
We settled for the classic prawn and cashew nuts as our final dish. It was as good a rendition as I have ever had, with big meaty deveined prawns, loads of cashews and not too much gloopy cornflour thickened sauce.

As delighted as I was to see glazed toffee apples and bananas on the menu, there was no way any of us could approach dessert. Our waiter brought us glasses of chilled lychee wine, which he assured us we'd like because it had similar flavours to the Gewurztraminer we'd been drinking, plus it was good for us. He wasn't wrong.

The food, drinks and service charge came to £166 between the four of us. Bloody good value, I thought. Similar pricing to our local Chinese but food of a much higher standard. It will not be our only visit.


Angie's Recipes said...

My mouth is watering....I seriously want to try those aubergine chips!

Barbara said...

That was an amazing post. Your descriptions were spot on and photos excellent. Would love to try every dish!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Angie - salt & pepper aubergine is one of my favourites, I find it irresistable!

Barbara - thank you! Everything on the menu sounded so good, we're going to have to go back for more.

Kavey said...

Oh my!!!

Joanne said...

Oh my gosh, what a lovely meal! I want those aubergine fries!

grace said...

like everyone else, the eggplant fries really caught my eye. great meal!

yellowfish said...

That duck looks so amazing!


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