Peking Gourmet Inn
I’m not one to advocate Japanese teppanyaki restaurants. Oftentimes, they rely on tricks and flashy techniques to create an enticing appeal. However, these tricks quickly lose their glamour, and what’s left is bland, simple food one could easily cook at home. By cooking food at the table, the chef severely limits his abilities of creating complex dishes with interesting flavors. When you’re cooking in front of an audience, you lose the luxury of painstakingly putting together time-consuming dishes. The audience watches, so the clock ticks. Spend too much time on one task, and the show dies, causing the restaurant to appear lackluster. I speak of teppanyaki both as a public service announcement—avoid them—and because my friend Sean recently introduced me to a dining experience similar to teppanyaki. Unlike teppanyaki, however Peking Duck skips the gimmicks.
After waiting two hours for a table—what else would you expect on a Saturday night from a restaurant that garnered over 300 reviews on Yelp while averaging four out of five stars?—my friends and I watched ravenously as a smoking hot roast duck (Peking Duck, $39) arrived at our table. With a stack of plates on hand, an ancient man named Wu began carving delicately thin slices of duck skin and meat. Corroborated by the stoic, focused expression on his face, Wu handled each slice as if they were gold, and to our deprived stomachs, the food certainly looked like gold.
Alas, we could not eat until our waitress, a woman, incorporated all the ingredients that lay mockingly in front of us—shredded cucumbers, hoisin sauce, vibrant spring onions, and thin “pancakes”—into a wrap. Still, part of the joy of eating Peking Duck comes from watching the food fold effortlessly together in front of you.
The finished wrap looked rather plain, but anything can lay hidden beneath that dusty white pancake, so in one giant bite, I devoured the wrap, breaking a torturous long wait. While the roasted duck and spring onions delivered a strong kick of savoriness, watery cucumbers and mildly sweet hoisin sauce played antagonist. A melody of sweet and salty, crunchy and soft, and cool and hot serenaded my tongue. Perhaps it was the two-hour wait, but that first bite was truly bliss.
The 12 small pancakes and medium-sized duck stood no chance against the machine-steady mouths of four teenagers, so even before our three entrees arrived, plates lay bare with smears and spots indicative of ravenously devoured food.
Peking Gourmet Inn. offers an assortment of cookie-cutter Chinese foods including, black pepper beef ($17.50), battered shrimp in sweet ginger sauce ($19.95), and pork with garlic sprouts ($17.50). Capitalizing on the restaurant’s popularity however, the prices run steep for these otherwise ordinary choices.
The black pepper beef walks carefully between the line of over-seasoning and under-seasoning, while sweetness overpowers the aforementioned shrimp dish.
Leaning more towards black pepper beef in flavor, the pork with garlic sprouts harbored a healthy amount of flavor without drowning down the taste of beef.
With practically no windows at all, Peking Gourmet Inn magically transports diners into a different place than the gloomy neighbourhood outside. Portraits of powerful U.S. figures line the wall in military fashion. These portraits tout testimonials of happy customers—including the Bush family—like the favorable reviews by publications posted on the restaurant’s single, curtained window. On a class of its own, there are no substitutes for Peking Gourmet Inn, at least not in this area. Oh, and duck fat has higher percentages of unsaturated fats than other animal fats, so dig in!
Peking Gourmet Inn
6029 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041