500BestSquarePeking Duck @ Café East

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One of the grandest dishes in the Mandarin cuisine, Peking duck looks simple enough. But the preparation is involved. The duck is hung up to age for a few days, coated with herbs and sometimes honey. Then it’s slowly roasted for a long time, after which the heat is turned up to crisp the skin. Out comes the whole duck on a big platter, for the diners to ogle and approve. It returns to the kitchen, where it’s cut up into skin and meat portions.

When it returns to the table, each diner gets thin “pancakes” (most restaurants now use flour tortillas for this). You spread hoisin sauce on the pancakes, add pieces of skin or meat or both, and some green onions. You roll it up and eat it like a burrito. It makes a magnificent first course for six people or so, or an entree for two to four. The Café East performs all these feats very well, plus one more. The parts of the duck that don’t usually make it into the final presentation are turned into an extra stir-fry dish, making another course entirely. The Peking duck does not need to be ordered in advance; it’s on the menu all the time.

Café East. Metairie: 4628 Rye. 504-888-0078.

This is among the 500 best dishes in New Orleans area restaurants. Click here for a list of the other 499.

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