Berlin‘s got a soft spot for Ente. Back home it was an expensive choice or not one at all, but here in the German capital duck makes it way into all sorts of dishes – from red and yellow curries to the ubiquitous China Box. There’s one type however that you won’t find so easily: the world-renowned yet Berlin-elusive Peking Ente.
I’m slowly reconciling with Berlin’s lack of a Chinatown as I continue to find gems in Charlottenburg’s Kantstraße area. First was Aroma, now my dim sum destination. Then there was Lon-Men’s Noodle House, now spicy beef noodle soup central. Then upon an invitation from friends came Good Friends, a Chinese restaurant they’ve described as the ultimate spot for a good Peking duck dinner.
Used to the sights and smells of New York and Boston’s Chinatowns, I was expecting the usual display of hanging roasted ducks and their mouthwatering aromas to greet me, but there’s none of that at Good Friends. In fact, Peking duck is nowhere to be found on their menu. A friend had to call in a few days in advance to reserve and pay a 20 EUR deposit – that’s right, a deposit – for a roasted duck. The thought of ordering a dish from a secret menu was exciting, but never have I gone through such hoops to have dinner. Duck preparation seems straightforward: roast it, slice into chopstick-friendly portions, serve with sauce. False. Turns out, Good Friends serves Peking duck the traditional way – a three-course (well, four) meal that starts with the most flavorful, prized part: the skin.
Authentically, the cooked Peking duck is carved in front of diners, but the Good Friends experience doesn’t go that far. Instead, the skin arrived in its crispy glory on a plate with cucumbers and pineapple slices, along with a stack of thin, steamed pancakes. And this guy, an edible swan arrangement:
The idea is to take a pancake, smear it with sweet bean sauce, then wrap it around a piece of duck skin and whatever vegetables you like until you’ve got something like this:
This course was undoubtedly the best. I may have loaded up on the sauce and doubled up on the skin, because each bite struck the right balance of sweet and salty, a harmonious play between the duck and the sauce as the vegetables cleansed the palate. Needless to say, there was not a single piece of duck skin, pancake, or vegetable left after the first round. Shortly after came the bulk of our duck in a vegetable stir-fry served with steamed white rice, which was delicious but nowhere as novel as the previous course.
The anomaly in our meal was definitely the third course, which not only arrived much later (night had already fallen upon us) but also seemed a bit misplaced: a clear broth soup with the remaining duck meat, mushrooms and vegetables. The soup was tasty, but at this point we were stuffed to the gills. In retrospect, maybe the serving order is strategic, ending (traditionally) with soup to soothe diners’ satisfied stomachs.
A Peking duck dinner would normally end here, but in a Western twist of events we were served a non-duck based dessert: deep-fried banana and pineapple served with honey. Simple and light, but it hit the spot.
A four-course Peking duck meal at Good Friends costs 88 EUR, but it can easily satisfy a group of five and satiate a group of four, as was our case. With two glasses of wine, my tab ran up to 30 EUR but it was worth it, just for the first course alone. It sure isn’t something for the everyday, but rather an indulgence that’s a comforting U7 ride away.
Tip: Reserve your Peking Ente two to three days in advance. A 20 EUR deposit is required, which must be paid at least a day before your reservation.
+49 30 3132659