A Succulent Dinner at Peking Duck Ottawa

Last Updated on May 8, 2024 by Pamela MacNaughtan

I watched as a chef in a crisp white coat and toque blanche expertly sliced into a golden Peking duck, the delicate thin slices fanned on top of a ceramic warming dish in the shape of a duck. It’s our first time dining at Peking Duck Ottawa, and our tastebuds are watering with anticipation. I’m always looking for new things to do in Ottawa, and I have a love for Asian cultures and foods, so when I learned of its existence, Peking Duck Ottawa skyrocketed to the top of the eats list in my notes app.

Opening during the summer of 2022, Peking Duck Ottawa is a tasty addition to the ByWard Market area. It’s a gorgeous restaurant, with red lacquered walls; some with intricate latticework panels, and others with a maze-like design over gray and black marble-looking mirrors. The tables are big and round with crisp white linens and dark wood chairs with black cushions. Oblong ribbed glass lamps hang from the ceiling, and the fireplace is lit.

Peking Duck Ottawa is affiliated with the famous Quanjude restaurant in Beijing, China, which was established in 1864 (Qing Dynasty). Known best for its Peking duck, Quanjude used open ovens and non-smokey hardwoods like date, pear, and peach to roast their ducks, giving them a deliciously unique flavour. While they originally served imperial families, today Quanjude has affiliates throughout China, and around the world – including three in Canada alone (Ottawa, Markham, and Vancouver).

Origins of Peking Duck

During the Yuan Dynasty for the Emporer, Peking duck made its appearance during the Ming Dynasty, when the first restaurant (Bianyifang) to specialize in the dish opened near Beijing in 1416. Imperial families were the first to enjoy Peking duck, but by the late 18th century, the upper classes were savouring it as well.

In 1864, Yang Quanren opened Quan Je De in Beijing, utilizing an oven of his own creation which allowed the ducks to be hung for roasting. The black-feathered ducks originated in Nanjing, living mostly in canal ways. 

Today, Peking duck is often made with American Peking, a white feathered duck that was first bred in the 19th century in the United States with ducks from China. By the 20th century, Peking duck was known as a quintessential Chinese dish – a favourite among dignitaries and tourists. Several Quan Ju De affiliates opened in Beijing, around China, and Hong Kong during this time, and in 2017 the first affiliated restaurant opened outside the Asian continent in Melbourne, Australia (as of 2023, it’s no longer in operation). 

Peking Duck Ottawa

Delicious shrimp at Peking Duck Ottawa

Seated in a corner, with a full view of the restaurant, we pursued the 35-page menu at Peking Duck Ottawa. The duck needs to be ordered in advance, so that was already settled, but we needed a couple of sides to compliment the duck. The sautéd green beans with shrimp paste looked tasty, as did the crispy honey shrimp.

When a chef appeared in the dining room with a carving cart, our bubbly server invited us to walk over and watch as he expertly carved thin slices of duck and fanned them onto duck-shaped serving plates. It was mesmerizing. The duck was large, with golden crispy skin and juicy dark meat. 

sliced Peking Duck

When the duck was sliced, a steamer basket with yellow trim was placed on the table, 24 paper-thin steamed pancakes resting inside. Small square dishes of sweet soybean dipping sauce, and thinly sliced cucumber spears and scallions appeared next. The shrimp and a heaping plate of green beans (enough for four people) rounded things out.

Wrapping Peking Duck in Ottawa

A plate of crispy duck skin was served with sugar on the side and instructions to eat it while it was hot – started off our meal. After a brief how-to lesson, we dug in, rolling duck, cucumber, scallions, and dipping sauce in the steamed pancakes. The duck was perfectly cooked, and if I was rich, I would eat Peking duck this way every week for the rest of my life.

Our sides were yummy, too. We ate every single plump sticky shrimp and made a pretty good dent in the green beans. I’d love to say we finished every single slice of duck, but I cannot. We did, however, take the remaining duck, steamed pancakes, and green beans home.

Is Peking Duck worth the price you pay?

Eating family style at Peking Duck

In a word, yes!  Peking duck is a delicious specialty dish that I think should be enjoyed at least once – or if you’re travelling in China or Hong Kong, a few times. The Peking Duck Ottawa restaurant in the ByWard Market is easily accessible (there is an elevator to the second floor where the restaurant is located), and the staff is excellent. 

Peking duck service starts at 88 CAD and can feed 2 to 4 people. The price includes the bones, which you can take home to make soup (yum!). Appetizers are 12.99 CAD to 21.99 CAD, while mains are 21.99 CAD to 188 CAD.

It’s a pricey meal, but delicious, and I know we will definitely go back and bring friends along for the tasty ride – oh, the dishes we can try with more people at the table!

Dine at Peking Duck Ottawa

byward market • 90 george street • 613-860-0888 • pekingduck.ca • $$$ – $$$$ • reservations required

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