When dining at Peking Gourmet Inn, the first dish on anyone’s mind should be their oft revered Peking Duck. The first trigger comes before even entering the Chinese restaurant, as the red signs that mark the restaurant’s spot out of its Culmore strip mall home are decorated with the yellow silhouettes of the water-faring bird. Inside, the desire to place that Peking Duck order grows stronger, as the golden-skinned poultry is wheeled again and again to customers throughout the expansive dining hall for table-side carving. The oversized pictures of celebrity customers past – movie stars, diplomats, and no shortage of political figures – that line the walls, though, get just as many stares.
For the cost of $39, a whole duck (enough to easily satisfy a party of two) comes to the table. It is the final, most important entry in a parade of foods that come with the order – a plate of sliced strands of spring onion, another of cucumber sticks, a small bowl of hoisin sauce, and a stack of flat, floury pancakes. The duck is sliced at the table in an expert display that demands an audience. First, roasted pieces of skin are sliced free of the bird and plated. Then, a layer of fat scraped away, exposing the meat. Next, thin slices of the breast meat are placed alongside those bits of skin.
The components are meant to be combined, hoisin sauce anchoring bits of vegetable, meat and skin to the pancake, which is tightly rolled and promptly devoured. The wonderfully sweet and so distinct sauce, the crunchy and mild-tasting vegetables, the tender pieces of duck, the crispy and deliciously fat-flavored skin – all come together well. The impressions of those disparate flavors and textures, which advance with each bite, make for an exciting experience.
Those who wish to expand upon the meal’s offerings, at the cost of delaying the delectable Peking Duck’s arrival, may choose from the restaurant’s appetizers. Among them are some of the must-have fried treats of Chinese cuisine, like the Spring Rolls ($5.95) and the Fried Dumplings ($7.50). The Spring Rolls come four to a plate, with crisp, flaking shells packed with clear noodles and carrot pieces, a warm and satisfying filling. The Fried Dumplings, at six to a serving, pack a loose mound of savory pork into a nicely fried dough shell.
While the Peking Duck is a house specialty, other entree options accommodate a variety of tastes, with seafood, beef, pork, vegetable, noodle, and rice based dishes – not to mention more poultry options – rounding out the menu. A list of Chef’s Specialties highlights a few preferred dishes, among them the Ginger Beef ($20), proof that not only duck is made admirably here. An order of the Ginger Beef brings hefty cubes of beef to the table, in a thick sauce heavy with the scent of ginger. In its flavor, however, the ginger draws back, becoming the standout, but not overpowering, taste in a sweet and tangy sauce.
However the diner should plot out the meal, the overall impression left by the restaurant is certain. For offering quality cuisine, refined service, and the chance to entertain the thought of sharing a dining spot with the famous and powerful, Peking Gourmet Inn is a special place.
Peking Gourmet Inn is located at 6029 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. For more information, call 703-671-8088 or visit pekinggourmet.com. Restaurant hours are Sunday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. and Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.