We received a recommendation from a friend that if you are looking for excellent roast duck, then don’t miss out on the famed cherry valley duck (櫻桃霸王鴨) in Taiwan’s Yilan county. Specifically, the place to try is the Red Lantern (紅樓) at Silks Place (蘭城晶英酒店), one of the region’s top hotels.
And so when we knew we would be passing through Yilan, we made sure we booked two weeks in advance. It was a good thing we did too, because it was a Friday lunch at the place was packed out. They offer two strict times, an 11:30 slot and a 1:30pm slot, with a dining time of 90 minutes. Everyone goes there for the duck, without exception.
Their menu is relatively extensive (you can find it here). You can go for a banquet that’s NT$3888+10% for four people, NT$5288+10% for six people and NT$7288+10% for 10 people, or you can just go for the duck plus a few side dishes. When you order the duck, there’s basically a four-course set and a five-course set.
The four-course duck set (NT$2,088) comes with what is essentially Peking Duck (wrapped in a special Yilan scallion pancake), duck sushi, duck soup and a choice of either duck san choy bau (cooked duck wrapped in lettuce) or san bei ya (three-cup duck) cooked in a clay pot. The five-course duck set (NT$2688) is the same except with an extra duck mapo tofu.
We ended up going with the four-course duck set plus a few other dishes. We also ordered a jug of fresh watermelon juice, which looked really appetizing because everyone else around us was having it. It was indeed super sweet and refreshing, but it did set us back a whopping NT$600.
Anyway, here are the photos. First up, the duck.
As you can probably gather from the photos, this is a spectacular dish, as good as, if not better, than any Peking Duck dish I’ve had, even in Beijing. The duck is of course exquisite, but what sets it apart are the scallion pancake, which gives it an added flavour boost, and the sweet miso, which is not as salty and heavy as traditional hoisin sauce. The normal scallion is also not as sharp as others I have tried, and the fried one is a whole different experience. What a fantastic start.
Next up, the duck sushi.
This turned out to be the most unbelievable duck dish I’ve ever had. I never thought duck sushi would be this spectacular. The crispy duck skin was glazed and cooked to perfection; the sushi rice was excellent, with just the right amount of vinegar; and there was also a thin layer of cheese that completes it. Absolutely heavenly.
Next up, the duck san choy bau.
This was also surprisingly good. The lettuce was fresh and the duck was saucy and cooked with bean sprouts. The filling and the lettuce are served separately, so it’s up to you how much you want to put in. I put in a lot.
Unfortunately, I may have forgotten to take a photo of the soup. But you can guess what it looks like. To make up for it, here’s a photo of a noodle soup we got.
The other a la carte dishes we got include sauteed beef with spring onions and sauteed water spinach. Both were very very good.
So, you add some of the best duck I’ve ever had, anywhere, and you throw in the ambience of the hotel, the quality service and everything else, and you end up with a top notch dining experience you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. I would definitely recommend paying the Red Lantern a visit if you’re ever near Yilan, and I’m sure I’ll go back there some time in the future.
Red Lantern (紅樓) at Silks Place (蘭城晶英酒店)
Address: Silks Place, No. 36, Section 2, Minquan Rd, Yilan
Hours: Weekdays 11:30-15:00, 17:30-21:00; Weekends 11:00-15:00, 17:00-21:00