Cherry Valley Duck at Red Lantern, Silks Place (Yilan)

July 8, 2014 in Best Of, Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel


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.


A chef arrives with the first of the duck courses, which is served in traditional Peking Duck style

Juicy, succulent duck with a super crispy outer layer

Juicy, succulent duck with a super crispy outer layer

The chef slices off the crispy skin, piece by piece

The chef slices off the crispy skin, piece by piece


Just like this…

And this...

And this…


The duck is wrapped in this special Yilan scallion pancake

And served with a special sweet miso and either standard scallion or deep fried scallion

And served with a special sweet miso and either standard scallion or deep fried scallion

They do all the rolling for you, and this is the end result

They do all the rolling for you, and this is the end result

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.

The duck sushi is served on individual spoons and can be eaten in a single mouthful

The duck sushi is served on individual spoons and can be eaten in a single mouthful

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.

Duck san choy bau

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.

Noodle soup with spring onion

Noodle soup with spring onion

Sauteed beef with spring onion

Sauteed beef with spring onion

Sauteed water spinach

Sauteed water spinach

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)


Number: 03-9101011

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

Peking Duck at Dragon Restaurant (Taipei)

January 16, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel


It’s not Beijing, but Taipei has some pretty good Peking Duck as well. One of the more famous ones is at the Dragon Restaurant (otherwise known as Longdu), which is, strangely, located in the Japanese district of all places in Taipei.

Not much to say about this place except that they are big and they offer a mean Peking Duck carved up in the traditional way served with pancake, spring onion, and tangy hoisin sauce. They also offer some other traditional dim sums (around 30 types) if that’s not enough.

Check out the waitress carving up the whole duck on the spot.


And here is the finished product.

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And here it is served with the pancake, spring onion and sauce.


As you can see, the oily skin is crispy and the duck meat is succulent. Unlike a lot of other Peking Duck restaurants, Dragon provides plenty of flesh, but  And the pancake is nice and fluffy and hot. It’s up there with the famous Peking Duck joints I sampled during my most recent trip to Beijing about a year ago.

As the whole duck leaves a lot of meat and bone, most people will choose a second dish to use up the rest, a congee that is also their second specialty. The price of the two-course Peking Duck is NT$1500.

And here are some of the other dim sums we ordered, such as zhaliang (fried dough wrapped in steamed rice noodle), pan fried turnip cake and steamed pork chunks with black bean sauce. All were passable, not extraordinary. But they are not the reason people go to the restaurant. Check it.




And for dessert, we got these fried glutinous rice balls with sesame and black sesame filling. Not my kind of thing but everyone else loved it.


Dragon Restaurant seems to be always busy, so if you plan to go there to try some of Taiwan’s best Peking Duck, make sure you book well in advance. I didn’t care much for their dim sums, but the duck was awesome. Average expenditure is probably about NT$500-$900 per person.



Dragon Restaurant (Longdu) (龍都酒樓)

Address: 18-1, Ln 105, Zhongshan N Rd Sec 1, Taipei (nearest MRT Zhongshan Station, red line)

Phone: (02) 2563-9293

Hours: 11:30am to 2pm, 5:45pm to 9pm Mon-Fri; 11:20am to 2pm, 5:45pm to 9pm Sat-Sun

Italian at Bianco Taipei

January 7, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

photo 4

So we keep hearing about this tasty and affordable Italian joint near the big roundabout close to the Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT station. It’s called Bianco, and it serves an assortment of freshly made pasta, risott and pizza, as well as brunch selections that the locals just adore. We ended up going there on a very rainy weekday and were lucky to have booked because otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to secure a seat, so that just shows how popular the place is.

The restaurant itself has a clean cut look with decor dominated by white. They do have child seats and the back area is quite roomy so we had little problem just leaving the pram by the table.

Here’s a sample of a page of the menu, which is in both Chinese and English.

photo 5

As the bottom of the menu indicates, the prices are a la carte, but you can create a set meal that includes soup, salad, drink, cake and/or gelato for extra. Any two of the above is an additional NT$170, any three is NT$210, any four is NT$260 and you can get all five for NT$290.

We didn’t want to stuff our faces as usual so we just added two items, a soup and a gelato (two scoops) to go with our two mains, their trademark organic risotto with black truffle in cream (NT$410), and a peking duck pizza (NT$320)

photo 1

The soup of the day was a minestrone which was very hearty and flavoursome, with lots of fresh vegetables. I wished there was a little more soup though, but that’s just me.
photo 3

The organic black truffle risotto was wonderful. Very aromatic, not too creamy, not too salty, just the right sprinkle of cheese and full of truffle flavour. I really enjoyed it and thought it was a refreshing change to the normal truffle risottos you tend to get at other Italian restaurants.

photo 4

The Peking duck pizza was pretty good too. If you like Peking duck and hoisin sauce, chances are you will enjoy this. The base was decent, not spectacular, but it was sprinkled with a healthy dose of toppings, including cucumber, spring onions and sauce. It’s actually not the first time I’ve had this type of pizza, and to be honest I actually prefer the one I had back home in Sydney at the Australia Hotel at the Rocks. That one is bigger and has more duck, though to be far it also costs more than twice as much. Still, I enjoyed it, and I doubt I can get it elsewhere in Taipei.

photo 2

As for dessert, we chose the gelato. You can go up to the front counter to choose which flavours you want, and we ended up going for the green tea and chocolate. If you pick cake you can also choose the type of cake you want, and you can check out a sample of the type of stuff that’s on offer below.

photo 3

The two scoops of ice cream we got were fairly good. The green tea is no Haagen-Dazs, but it was good enough, and the chocolate is better than your average no name brand.

photo 5

On the whole it was a satisfying meal and I can see why so many people rate it highly. I wouldn’t say it’s one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve been to in Taipei, but it’s very good, the prices are reasonable and I can definitely see myself going back there again.



Bianco Taipei (義大利食材餐廳~白色)

Facebook page:

Address: No. 19, Alley 112, Section 4, Ren’Ai Road, Da’An District, Taipei (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua, blue line)

Phone: 02 2325 3655

Hours: Monday to Friday 11:30am-10pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am-10pm


More Peking Duck at Beijing’s Quanjude!

November 18, 2012 in China, Food, Reviews, Travel

Quanjude is one of the most famous Peking duck franchises in China

On this night, after spending most of the day working on two lengthy articles, I caught up with a friend of a colleague who has been living in Beijing for more than 20 years.

He recommended either lamb hotpot or Peking duck, and even though I’ve had it before I decided to go with the duck again, as I’ve never been all that fond of lamb or hotpots.

This particular Peking duck place we visited was another famous one, and probably the most famous of them all. It’s a franchise called Quanjude (全聚德), and it has a history of almost 150 years. You gotta be pretty good to be able to last that long, right?

Outside the Quanjude near Shuangjing station

The Quanjude we met at is located near Shuangjing subway station. I originally wanted to catch a cab there but it was damn near impossible around rush hour, so I decided to catch the subway instead. I thought the subway was crowded before, but rush hour is a whole different ball game. You don’t really move voluntarily — you simply get carried by the crowds. You really have to experience it personally to understand what I mean.

Quanjude is regarded as fairly expensive, with half a duck costing around 200 yuan (AU$31). Like the other place I went to, you start off with the crispy duck skin (with dippable sugar), followed by duck meat wrapped in thin, hot pancakes plus hoisin sauce, cucumber and so forth.

Crispy duck skin with sugar

Succulent duck meat

Wrapped in steaming, fluffy pancakes

We also got a bunch of other duck related dishes, such as sliced duck feet with a spicy and tangy Chinese mustard and duck gizzards, which and looked and tasted surprisingly similar to BBQ pork. I wouldn’t usually get those things but they were better than I expected.

I admit, I found the duck feet a little unusual

Duck gizzards look better and taste better than they sound

The better duck side dishes were the soup, which was made with duck bones and was thick and full of natural flavour, as well as the fried duck meat on skewers. There was also a stir fry duck served in a crispy nest inside a lettuce (similar to a san choy bau) which was exquisite. To even out the food groups we added a stir fry broccoli, which was nothing special but got the job done.

Looks plain but the duck soup is sublime

Fried duck meat skewers

Duck san choy bau

Stir fry broccoli with pine nuts

While I didn’t pay for the meal I believe it cost around 370 yuan, which included a couple of beverages, one of which was a beer. Compared to the 60-80 yuan per head at Liu Zhai Shi Fu (刘宅食府), Quanjude is notably more expensive. But was it also notably better? I can’t say that it was. Definitely on about the same level, but all things considered Liu Zhai Shi Fu is better value for money.



Quanjude (全聚德)

Website: (main website) (Shuangjing store website)

Address: 8 Guangqumenwai Dajie, Shuangjing, Beijing

(There are plenty of franchises, including at Wangfujing, and the Hepingmen store is supposedly the largest Peking duck restaurant in the world)

Price: 150-200 yuan (AU$23-31) per head

Peking Duck at Beijing’s Liu Zhai Shi Fu (刘宅食府)

November 11, 2012 in China, Food, Reviews, Travel

Source: (I forgot to take my own)

One cannot say they’ve been to Beijing (formerly Peking) unless they’ve had some Peking Duck, right?

I was very lucky on Wednesday night that my cousin-in-law was free and offered to take me out to Liu Zhai Shi Fu (刘宅食府), a famous Peking duck restaurant with a traditional Chinese setting.

The place wasn’t that easy to find, requiring us to go through a narrow alley until we arrived at the massive traditional Chinese doors. Inside, all the decor was traditional Chinese, from the wooden tables to the benches, making me feel as though I had just landed on the set of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

We ordered the Peking duck, of course, which is three courses in itself, plus three other dishes. Apologies for the quality of the photos because I only had a phone and not my proper camera (I was too excited about the food and forgot to bring it).

The Peking duck was the highlight of the night. Unlike my previous experiences with Peking duck, the first course was just the skin. And it was so nice and thin and crispy, glazed with just the right amount of oil. And the way to eat it is to just dip it in a bit of sugar and/or chili sauce. Mmm….

The second course is your traditional Peking duck meat and just a little bit of skin (not crispy) wrapped in the pancake. You can add your own scallions and cucumber sticks and hoisin sauce — as much or as little as your want. There’s even this kind of melon you can put in but I wasn’t used to it.


And the third course is the bones with the remaining meat on it — you could either make a soup out of it or fry it with salt and pepper. We went with the latter option.

The other dishes we got were a cold cabbage platter which had this real nice sweet and sour tang to it, a pot of stewed chicken and eggplant rolls. All marvellous stuff. If I had to pick a favourite out of the three it would be the eggplant rolls — eggplant on the outside, meat on the inside, fried and dipped in sauce.

Check it out.

In all it was a fabulous dinner that will no doubt end up as my most memorable meal of the trip.



Liu Zhai Shi Fu (刘宅食府)


Address: 8 Meishuguan East Street, Beijing

Phone: (+86) 010-64005912

Price: Around 60-80 yuan (AU$9-AU$12) per person