The Duckavore Dinner at Wong – Chinese – West Village
December 16th, 2011 by donuts4dinner

My foodie friend Lucy read about Wong‘s Duckavore Dinner on a Chowhound thread and sent the link to a couple of us. Tempted by the promise of the duckiest meal we’ve ever had (even the dessert!), our friend Tiffany made a reservation for four with the required 48 hours notice, and we converged in the West Village restaurant amid candles, school desks, and beakers for a wildly successful large-format meal that was more than just novelty.

Wong Duckavore
the menu

Wong Duckavore

Although quite confusing at first, the bread service perfectly set the tone for the meal. We still have no idea why one piece of bread was puffed and one wasn’t, and we couldn’t find any of the cheese the server mentioned, but the four of us were in agreement that whatever it was, it was delicious. The bread was soft and warm and was so good on its own we didn’t need the sweet and sour curry sauce on the side but appreciated it, especially when combined with a basil leaf.

Wong Duckavore
duck sung choy bao

The words “fish sauce” haven’t exactly inspired confidence in me in the past, but this could change my mind. Our server told us the chef recommends using the lettuce to form wraps around the pulled duck pieces, but our lettuce all seemed to be fused together and impossible to separate for wrap-making; most of us used forks and knives and treated it like a salad. And what a salad it was, with elements fresh and crispy, sweet and spicy, citrusy and crunchy.

Wong Duckavore
duck bun with Chinese celery and cucumber

Three words: deep-fried bun. I was definitely looking forward to this course most, and maybe that’s why I wasn’t wholly satisfied by it in the end, but the bread sure was interesting. It had the thinnest crispy layer covering its exterior and just oozed oil all over my hands. The duck just couldn’t stand up to it, though; it was underseasoned and therefore underflavored, and there wasn’t enough sauce on the bun to make up for it. I did like the near-pickled cucumber, though, and you can’t beat those soft Chinese buns no matter what.

Wong Duckavore
duck meatball with squash

It was so unfair that there were only two of these for the table, because I needed four for myself. The sauce was so deliciously chunky and left such an unexpected heat in my mouth. The squash had the texture of a cooked apple and added a little necessary sweetness to balance the dish. I’m not sure I understand why paneer was used over a more traditional cheese, but I loved the added flavor and texture.

Wong Duckavore
whole Long Island duck in lotus leaves

One of the chefs presented us with the whole duck before taking it back to the kitchen, carving it up, and bringing it back in pieces on a tray with sides of greens and rice.

Wong Duckavore
duck slices with greens

In a word, the duck was incredible; all four of us were murmuring and nodding through our entire portions. I’m a big fan of tasting menus because the initial punch of a dish usually wears off for me after a couple of bites, but the sauce on the duck was a gift that kept on giving. It was sweet and rich, like a barbeque sauce for a dark, stormy night. The duck was tender enough not to need a knife, and the skin, though not crispy, melted in my mouth like it had been roasting all day.

Wong Duckavore
8-treasure sticky rice

I loved the rice in theory but only liked it in practice. It was so chock full of fruit and nuts that it should have been bursting with flavor, but it seemed underseasoned to me. When the juices from the duck touched it, though, it took on the same deep, savory flavors, so when I go back for this dinner the second (and third and fourth) time, I’m going to pile my rice high with duck.

Wong Duckavore
duck broth

This was far too hot to drink when it was served to us, so we had to sit and wait for it to cool while the fat congealed on top. It was certainly the duckiest part of the meal, and the thick, oily broth stayed on our lips long after our cups were empty.

Wong Duckavore
duck a la plum: roast duck ice cream, star-anise-poached plums, crispy tuile

Almost everyone I’ve mentioned the duck ice cream to has been skeptical, so I’m not sure why I went into this thinking it was going to be the best dessert ever. (Was it Wylie Dufresne’s delicious everything bagel ice cream that convinced me?) Of course I was right, though; it was ice cream, all right, but instead of being flavored with chocolate or mint or caramel, it was flavored with duck, and it was excellent. Maybe it works because we’re so used to covering our meat with sweet sauces for savory courses, anyway, but everyone agreed that it did indeed work. The flavor was pretty intense, though, so the golf-ball-sized scoop was just the right amount. The super-crunchy caramelized tuile was another highlight, both in flavor and texture, and we all liked the floral notes of the plum.

Wong Duckavore
five-spice cookie

We almost seemed to like this simple cookie as much as the plated dessert, but how could we not love shortbread in duck fat?

Wong Duckavore
plum chaser

Lucy accurately described this as a sort of plum soda; it reminded my boyfriend and me of the homemade sodas at the Jean-Georges restaurants that are really the whole point of dining there. It was light and refreshing, perfectly topping off the heavy meal.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

It seems like the thing to do in Manhattan these days is to lure customers in with whole suckling pigs, whole lambs, and whatever this thing is (I still haven’t been able to convince anyone to go eat it with me). In my experience, those dinners are exciting novelties that don’t really hold up in the taste department. I have an inkling that Wong was attempting to gain some attention by attempting the same sort of idea, but I think they were much more successful. Not only was everything delicious, but we got to try so many iterations of the protein; it wasn’t just appetizer, main, dessert. This is also the first time in my experience that the meal had a theme that was carried out from start to finish, and now the idea of having an unrelated pie with my whole suckling pig seems like a cop-out. At $60 per person, with friendly service and a casual candlelit atmosphere, I can definitely imagine myself coming back for this dinner just to be able to watch three more friends get to enjoy it.

7 Cornelia Street
New York, NY 10014 (map)

5 Responses  
  • Cheeryvisage writes:
    December 16th, 20111:28 pmat

    Yay! Great write-up. I was so jealous of your fast camera at the dinner. You were done with pictures in two clicks, while I had to take pic after pic of burry images.

    You should post this on Chowhound, a number of people there are curious about this dinner. And, I’ll get to be lazy and just reply to your post so I don’t have to do a full write-up. :P

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      December 16th, 20112:39 pmat

      Oh, gosh, it’s funny you say that, because I felt like I had to weed through five crappy pictures for every usable one. Your pictures turned out beautifully, though, obviously!

      Doesn’t take much to convince me. Here’s the thread:

  • Mrs. Bachelor Girl writes:
    January 6th, 20123:20 pmat

    I’m not the biggest duck fan, but this looks marvelous, particularly that shortbread cookie. But that’s probably just because I’m craving carbs.

  • Jose writes:
    January 11th, 20128:32 pmat

    We will soon see who has it faster :P Getting hungry already!

  • NYC Restaurant Reviews –» Blog Archive » Momofuku Ssam Bar Rotisserie Duck – Korean – East Village writes:
    January 25th, 201211:49 amat

    […] had some good duck, but this was some good duck. A couple of my dining companions were also at the Wong whole duck dinner with me, and they both thought Wong was better because of the diversity of the duck dishes. The […]

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