First look: Da Dong

Beijing roast duck specialist finally opens in Shanghai

Given the paucity of good Peking duck options in Shanghai - Xindalu being one of the few places in town of real note - it's something of a surprise that it's taken the renowned Beijing roast duck chain Da Dong this long to arrive in Shanghai. But arrive they have, finally, with a branch on the fifth floor of the Reel office building at Jingan Temple. 

Anyone who has visited one of the capital's five Da Dong outlets will recognise many of the chain's trademarks in Shanghai - including the queues. Only a handful of Da Dong's tables are available for booking, meaning if you just turn up, you'll likely have to wait. Fortunately, this wait is made more palatable by the fact you can help yourself to free soft drinks and wine.

Sleekly stylish, the restaurant's decor features traditional Chinese motifs and contemporary design surrounding several central ovens where the main duck roasting action takes place. The electric blue under-lighting throughout brings to mind the Yanan expressway at night, though in place of exhaust fumes and traffic jams are wafts of burning fruit woods and lines of toque-topped chefs whistling around the restaurant to carve the famous ducks.

While there are a few versions (including the option to order a half duck), a classic whole roasted duck will set you back 268RMB, with an extra 8RMB for the pancakes, plum sauce and traditional accompaniments. Da Dong claim their ducks are 'super lean' and less fatty than at other restaurants, but this takes nothing away from the flavour.     

The duck is undoubtedly the main event, but it's worth exploring the rest of the menu as well. The man behind the chain, celebrity chef Dong Zhenxiang, is classically trained in several schools of Chinese cuisine and has a strong interest in high-end seafood, as reflected in the restaurant's braised sea cucumber (from 258RMB/70g) and abalone dishes (from 268RMB). 

Chef Dong's tendency for creative takes on Chinese classics is also represented through dishes such as steamed king crab with Shaoxing wine and spicy ice cream (288RMB) and some interesting desserts including sweet glutinous dumplings in coconut (28RMB).

At the moment, service is not as slick as you'd expect from such a well established chain, but in fairness the Shanghai branch has only been open two weeks and we expect things to improve. It may have taken Da Dong a while to get here, but we're excited that it's finally arrived.

Pick up a copy of Time Out Shanghai in November for a full review of Da Dong.

Da Dong Fifth Floor, Reel Shopping Mall, 1601 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Changde Lu. See full address details.