There was a time when we took visitors requesting to eat traditional Peking duck to one of the many Duck King (鸭王) restaurants scattered about town, knowing that they’d be getting a decent and passable version of the dish that so famously belongs to our capitol in the north. We always tempered our expectations when it came to finding the crispy fowl fat here in Shanghai. Those days are now gone. After trying Xindalu, we know exactly where we’ll be taking our guests the next time they request some authentic Peking duck action.
Located on the first floor of the new Hyatt on the Bund, Xindalu is elegant and spacious, with a menu that tilts towards Zhejiang cuisine, but with a decent selection of other regional specialties. However, the stars of the menu are clearly the roasted Peking duck and Hangzhou’s famous beggar’s chicken. Ducks can be ordered by half and full portions, and should probably be done in advance, as it is by far the most popular dish. There is good reason for this, as the restaurant has invested quite a bit to import a full-service duck outfit, including the special ovens and the chefs, down from Beijing. Placed seductively in an open kitchen smack dab in the middle of the dining area, it’s hard for anyone to miss the aroma and the glistening, roasted skins being prepared for anxious guests.
When the bird finally does arrive, it is carved up table-side, with the thin, crispy layer of skin served first. Dipped in sugar, the skin literally evaporates in the mouth. The next layer of meat is then served with the requisite pancakes, spring onions, and plum sauce. While obviously meatier and leaner, there is still enough fat clinging onto it that the ensuing duck wrap is still amazing. The remaining meat and bones are then cooked in a broth, which they somehow forgot to produce until we reminded them after the dessert. According to our server, the Peking duck at Xinadalu stands out not only for the entire operation from Beijing, but also because the fatty ducks live only 45 days before duck-death (as opposed to standard 65 days for most restaurants). The roasting is also done old-old-school style, in huge stone oven over a wood fire.
The beggar’s chicken was also a must-have: a whole chicken wrapped in lotus leaves and then baked in a mold of clay. It’s dripping with juices, with huge chestnuts and rice stuffed up the middle. Guests can choose to use the mallet and slam down on the clay shell before the server unwraps the rest of the chicken; it’s supposed to bring good fortune for the one who wields it. All we ask is for the good fortune to go indulge in Xindalu’s duck very soon.
Xindalu – 1/F, Hyatt on the Bund, 199 Huangpu Lu, near Wuchang Lu (黄浦路199号1楼, 近武昌路), Tel: Phone: 6393-1234, Hours: 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm, Price: 200-250 RMB/person
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.