Thursday, May 08, 2008

chinese: i strongly recommend CELESTIAL RESTAURANT

1 NanJing West Rd., 3F


hours: Lunch 11:30 AM -2 PM
Dinner 5 PM - 9 PM


Kid friendliness: high chairs available.

Visit reviewed: 11/23/2007 and 2/24/2008

Overall, Celestial Restaurant has a very family friendly, impress your guests menu with lots of Chinese favorites such as xiao long bao and a variety of stir fried dishes , but everyone in the packed restaurant is probably there for the Peking Duck.

YUM- I can't say how much I love Peking duck. If you have been looking for Peking duck in Taipei (or anywhere), this is where to find it.

The carved slices of crispy skin and duck meat bundled inside the warm flat pancake, with a do-it-yourself layer of hoisin sauce and optional sliver of green onion- together has got to be one of the world's perfect finger foods.

Kind of like a mini Chinese burrito without the rice and beans.

I try not to think about how fattening each bite is while I chew on each heavenly crispy morsel. I also try to not look like I'm waiting for the lazy susan to wander back my way, and politely let each relative at the table have their turn when I just want to stockpile a whole plateful for myself. The skin should be crispy and the pancake is slightly doughy, so the textures mesh together so it's not too greasy. Plus the skin shouldn't have too much fat on it, otherwise, they didn't do good job carving it (as I've had at other restaurants).

The nicely presented plate of duck meat comes out after the initial plate of crispy roasted skin... you can also have them cook the remainder of the duck (meat and bones) into a soup with rice noodles and vegetables that is also very tasty (and filling) that comes at the end of the meal (around NT$1100 for whole duck + soup).

To be honest, I can't remember much about the rest of the food on the table because I was so focused on the duck, but it was good. Plus when you eat with relatives, you don't really get to look at the menu- they order all the good stuff. There was this interesting appetizer dish- celery with a mustardy, wasabi-ish sauce that was addicting- that I'd try again.

The second time we went, they had private rooms on the 3rd Floor. Look for the entrance below or the Royal Inn Taipei. The atmosphere is busy with lots of large tables- it's sort of a middle ground ambience- not a hole in the wall, but not as a fancy as a hotel restaurant, and so the prices are somewhere in the middle too. The menu is in English and Chinese and Japanese, and I've heard popular with tourists and locals alike, so it's best to call ahead for a reservation for dinner and weekends.

While they don't carve the duck in front of you like other restaurants that might be a bit more showy, what matters is how the food tastes, right?

The first time, I had some almond tofu to finish the meal.

The second time, there were these hot fried tang yuan that were so good. If you've never had it, you should definitely give these babies a try.

Just forget about counting the calories for one night.


Anonymous said...

i'm going to taipei for the first time this summer, and i'm so excited to visit all the places on your blog!
especially the hello kitty bakery!!

Mommy said...

I responded back to your question on the Oh Baby Buy Blog, I am drooling over this meal! I had duck in Scotland, but it was not as good as this looks!

Cakespy said...

The "Chinese Burrito" looking thing sounds and looks so tasty! Mmm, I love reading things like this, it makes me want to travel. Even more so than usual!!

Anonymous said...

So funny that you reviewed this place; I was just here this weekend for Mother's Day (15+ family members in one of their private rooms). My family has quite the history here: two of my aunts had their wedding receptions here years and years ago. This place, despite being kinda cheesily decorated, used to be a pretty happenin' and top-notch restaurant (as evident from the 1980's awards they still hang up behind the hostess stand). The duck is indeed quite divine. The celery dish you're referring to is called li shan celery (a.k.a.: li2 shan1 chin2 tsai4), and that is their "famous" dish. Two bloated-from-too-much-duck thumbs up for this place from this reviewer!

Anonymous said...

I've been there three times. Seems like my relatives really like the place. Great food. One time we saw a Japanese man order a whole duck for himself!! I don't know if he finished it or not though.

Anonymous said...

what's the closest metro to this restaurant? I saw the picture and your review and have to go!!

Unknown said...

This has been a great restaurant for many years. It was famous for its duck in January of 1990 when I first ate there. I still live here in Taiwan and have found no better duck.

Anonymous said...

I went to the try the Peking duck at Celestial and was not impressed. Having said that, I have eaten Peking Duck in HK and was blown away. At Celestial we ordered 2 ducks, the meat was a little cold and the pancakes weren't that warm. The rest of the dishes were lacking flavour. Does anyone know if there is a place in Taipei to get duck that compares to HK?

joanh said...

@anonymous- you're right I think their quality has been inconsistent in the last few years.. The last time I thought the duck was a bit dry. I've enjoyed the duck at Song Chu and at 33F at TWC but I heard the duck at Yen is also good.