Monday, April 30, 2012

chinese/peking duck: i strongly recommend SONG CHU


No. 14, Lane 15, Zhongxiao E. Rd, Sec. 5 台北信義區忠孝東路五段15巷14號
(02) 2764-4788

MRT: Taipei City Hall

hours: 11AM- 9PM

$$ (about NT$500/person)

Kid friendliness: lots to eat, especially duck!

Visit reviewed: 3/28/2012

Peking roasted duck is a guilty pleasure of mine. The crispy skin, the slathering of hoisin sauce on the pancake, rolled up together for a fatty, juicy bite. There are quite a few good options for peking duck in Taipei, but none like Song Chu. 

At first glance, it seems like just any other Chinese restaurant in town from the outside. But apparently, Song Chu is so popular they book their reservations for a whole month, the month before that month. Still with me? 

My friend asked me in early February if I wanted to try Song Chu in late March. Talk about torture, waiting two months, thinking about duck. I said yes, of course, but didn't hear about the semi-complicated reservation system that is as hard to book at Ludobites until we were eating lunch together. On the first of every month, diners call in to the phone number in attempt to get a live voice to secure a table, or can wait in person at the restaurant when they open- to get a reservation for the next month. Talk about planning ahead- perhaps this way they have their duck inventory down to an exact number.

The menu is only in Chinese. When asked if there was an English menu, they didn't even respond. I suppose if people can't even walk in to eat, you'd have someone who could read Chinese in your party to even know how to book at table there. But there's a ton of things on the sprawling menu- you'd never been able to order it all- the next time I'd like to try the lettuce wraps, or candied sweet potatoes.

Orders come in small, medium and large plates and are priced accordingly. There's lots of familiar and unfamilar looking things that quickly arrive to the table, filling up the lazy susan.

Out of the main dishes, my three favorites that I would order again would probably be the stewed intestines, 

stewed intestines
cabbage peanut slaw, a refreshing bite from all the meat and heaviness,

shredded cabbage salad with peanuts
spring onion cake,

spring onion pancake
and chopped chives in pan fried bun, which also needs to be ordered when you make your reservation.

jiou tsai bing 
rice noodle with sour cabbage

Skip the fried bread, I've had it crispier and sweeter at other places, like Xiao Shanghai.

fried bread

Although the dishes are very tasty, you have to save room for the main event- the duck. Unlike some other restaurants where they show you the duck, only to whisk it away back to the kitchen, Song Chu carves tableside, with deft precision and speed, separating the crisp skin from the fat and meat. 

As I'm taking pictures (along with half of the table), they warn us to not stand too close since sometimes oil spatters from the carving.

The slivers of golden brown skin are plated and served first...

along with a plate of hoisin sauce, green onions and thin pancakes.

It's so good and best eaten hot before the duck skin gets colder and you realize how fatty it all is. The more people you have, the more you can order. But be sure to specify and order more than one duck when you make your reservation if you have more people so there's enough to go around.

After the carving, the duck has a second round of being served, in soup, or stir fried with basil.

If you have room for dessert, the thin and sweet red bean sesame pancake is a solid choice, almost the size of a pizza with small slices for each person.

I don't know if I would have the persistence to try to call in and make my own reservation (I've heard it's like trying to call in to a radio station to win tickets, you just have to keep redialing), but if my friends manage to grab a reservation, they can count me in! What do you think? Who's been there and is it worth the trouble? Tomorrow is May 1st, who is going to try calling?


kirbie said...

This post had me drooling. I definitely need to try this place on my next trip. I love peking duck and everything else looks good too.

joanh said...

thank Kirbie!! you should def have a relative make reservations before you come back the next time!

Ken said...

hey, joan. Could you recommend some other Peking duck places in Taipei that you like (and are easier to get into!)? Thx!

joanh said...

hi Ken! Celestial, Dragon are both good. The duck at the World Trade Center is also very good, but I was invited by a member...

Ken said...

Thanks Joan! Dragon looks good. Your entry has me craving Peking Duck. While coming home today, I saw a sign for 脆皮烤鴨 on the corner of 南京東路 and 其隆路. Lunchbox for NT80. For that price, maybe they only give you a piece or two. It was a dirty hole-in-the-wall kind of place, which can be risky, but could also have some yummy stuff. I'll try it out one of these days and report back.