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Upscale New York Chinese restaurant panned by food critic

‘It dawned on me that I had paid for a duck with almost no flavour’

Sabrina Barr
Wednesday 07 March 2018 11:30 GMT
A New York food critic was left seriously disappointed with DaDong restaurant's famous Peking duck
A New York food critic was left seriously disappointed with DaDong restaurant's famous Peking duck (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If one were to venture to a culinary establishment that described itself as “The best of China in New York City”, they would surely expect to be presented with food of a heavenly nature.

However, when The New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells visited the acclaimed DaDong restaurant in Manhattan, he felt compelled to give it a terrible rating of zero stars.

Wells was curious to try DaDong’s Peking duck dish, made famous by the original Beijing branch of the restaurant. Unfortunately, he was left feeling seriously dissatisfied.

“[The meat] made very little impression at all, apart from my strong sense that there ought to have been more of it,” Wells wrote.

“Tasted on its own, it reminded me a bit of the lean, whitish, noncommittal supermarket pork chops I grew up on.

“Slowly, gradually, with great mental resistance but still inexorably, it dawned on my that I had paid $98 [£70.69] for a duck with almost no flavour.”

Wells’ woes didn’t end with the seemingly flavourless duck.

“Kung pao shrimp with beet coins and raw mushrooms tasted like ketchup,” he continued.

“Sweet-and-sour pork ribs with preserved plums were as sweet as if they’d been stewed in Dr Pepper, and a dusting of powdered sugar at the table didn’t help.”

The DaDong restaurant was first opened in the Dongcheng District of Beijing in the 1990s by chef Dong Zhenxiang, with the Manhattan branch opening in December last year.

In 2011, it was featured in Patricia Schultz’s book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die in which it was described as “a winner”.

While Wells was found wanting when sampling the Peking duck, he did admit in his review that other aspects of the restaurant were up to par.

He thoroughly enjoyed the Hot and Spicy Lobster and was impressed with the professionalism of the staff.

“Servers sometimes seemed to be reading dish descriptions from a teleprompter, but they made up for that with a care and attentiveness that felt unforced,” he wrote.

However, the beautiful interior of DaDong and the diligence of its staff wasn’t enough to deter Wells from writing his scathing review.

“Even the most gently priced bottle can go only so far to smooth over the potholes on the menu, and the suspicion that the best Peking duck in Beijing has turned into something that would struggle to stand out in Parsippany,” he concluded.

Wells left DaDong a measly rating of zero stars, describing it as merely “satisfactory”.

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