By Eileen and Paul Goldfinger
We like to go to the Peking Pavilion in Manalapan every few months. This is not your mother’s Chinese restaurant. It is a fine American restaurant owned by the Kuos family, serving spectacular Chinese cuisine. In 2007 it was rebuilt after a fire and is a striking building with a big red front door. It is spacious and modern–like a Soho restaurant. There is a lively bar scene where you can eat and watch Chinese sports like American football. Most of the help are Chinese, and the service is superb.
We have been going there for years and we always have the same thing: peppercorn calamari appetizer (share) and then Peking Duck (share–allow about 20 minutes to prepare). This recipe is identical to the kind served in Beijing. It is now considered the national dish of China (but not because we eat it all the time.) When the waiter took the order, I said, “Duck” and he got under the table.
They brought over the duck and carved it as we watched. The dissection was perfect, and the waiter held up the finished product and showed it off while flashing a big smile. He prepared the perfectly cooked and moist meat in thin pancakes with bits of crispy duck skin, celery and scallions. There also were crispy drumsticks and legs on the side. The housin sauce was dark and tasty.
We usually skip dessert, and Eileen did, but this night, after a bad week, I refused to deny myself. It was the first dessert we ever ordered there, and it was marvelous. The lava cake interior is warm molten chocolate. Accompanied by a scoop of high grade vanilla ice cream and a single shot espresso, it was something.
The people next to us were eating giant shrimp with a glaze. We also saw wonderfully prepared steaks and big bowls of wonton soup. Also they have spicy sautéed soft shell crabs, grilled halibut over shiitaki mushrooms, moo shu vegetables and many other choices. No one was using chop sticks. That’s good because I would not have been able to eat the rolled up duck with chop sticks.
The wine list was fine, the hot steamy tea arrived in little tea pots, and the white rice was sticky. We each had a glass of wine. Eileen chose an Italian Pinot Grigio while I got the 5 River Pinot Noir from California.
In keeping with the tradition of Chinese take-out, we took home enough food for 1/2 a dinner the next night. I even, believe it or not, took home half my chocolate lava cake after eating all the ice cream.
Next night, at home, Eileen made sweet and sour turkey/beef meatballs with fresh asparagus for the other half of the meal—a recipe by a Chinese chef. We finished it with a half bottle of Louis Jadot Burgundy (smooth and light–about $12.00) No need for a salad. No dessert at home. The lava cake is still waiting in the fridge for me to have a weak moment. It’s probably cold by now.
We have never had bad luck or bad duck at the Peking Pavilion, located at 110 Route 33 west. It is right after the business 33 joins the highway 33. The prices are reasonable ($15.00-$25.00 per most entrees—except ours). Our meal was about $80.00, but I don’t have the exact breakdown because I usually toss away the receipt without looking too closely–an old habit that makes Eileen mutter. In fact she’s the mutter and I’m the fatter. I think the duck was about $42.00, but it was for two and lasted into the next day. Note that we did get a fortune cookie and my fortune, as usual in a Chinese restaurant, was dopey–something about feeling like a million bucks–all green and wrinkled.
CINDY SCOTT with a Jerome Kern song that makes me seasick and romantic at the same time: