QJD (Quanjude) Peking Duck 全聚德 (Markham)

QJD or Quanjude has flew over the ocean from Beijing to Canada, and is one of the oldest Peking duck restaurants, operating since 1864. The Markham outpost is the second location outside of China (the first is in Melbourne) and is prominently set on the main floor of the Courtyard Marriott - just look for the towering duck statue. With the hotel comes a confusing parking situation: after asking the hotel’s concierge and restaurant staff we’re advised to park on the garage’s 4th floor and didn't need to pay for a ticket from the parking machine.

After settling into the sparkling white and turquoise dining room, I couldn’t help but drool over the carts of glistening ducks that just kept coming out – even tables of three (the smallest we could see) order duck. Our waiter suggests we put in the request for the Peking duck first, as it takes 30-minutes to prepare; a time-saving recommendation that allowed dinner to be finished in little over an hour.

Due to the long preparation time, all the other dishes come out first. QJD offers an extensive menu with a lot of offal items. We shied away from these but did try some atypical offering. One of these dishes was the Xi’an rice noodle dressed with spicy sauce ($11.99), which although described as cold, the knife cut noodles were thankfully warm. Overall, it’s a simple but enjoyable dish: the spicy sauce (bean paste mixed with chili oil) went nicely with the chewy noodles, crunchy julienned cucumbers, and spongy slivers of gluten.

Another little seen dish is the traditional Beijing style smoked chicken and tofu sheet roll ($15.99). While it looks pretty, the dish’s texture and flavour reminded everyone of cold mild Spam; for those who like the canned meat this could be fine, but for someone who doesn’t I was disappointed.

While the fried squid in pepper and salt ($18.99) was tender and had a great crunchy crust, it could stand to be drained longer and tasted like the chef forgot to add salt (although there was enough pepper). Luckily, we saved the chili oil from the chilled noodles, a good universal condiment, which helped to flavour the dish.

Finally, to balance out all the meat and carbs an order of sautéed snow pea shoots ($21.99) seemed ideal. It arrives in as a sizeable mound and was cooked nicely retaining the bright green colour and slight crunch.

After all the other dishes were finished, the main event … the DUCK ($118) … was served. The first teaser consists of bite-sized pieces of the oiliest skin – indulgent tastes you can augment with sugar.

Then the beautiful peony dish arrives - the reason you’d pay a $30 premium over their regular set. Since I’ve never had the "non-premium" version, I can’t comment whether you actually receive more of the fowl, however six hollow sesame seed buns are extra items with this combo. 

Presumably, since the buns arrive with the dish, these are meant to be eaten together. Sadly, the buns are cold and its dough is in dire need of seasoning; without adequate hoisin sauce, it’s rather plain – yet you don’t want to waste too much of the sauce as despite the hefty price the duck, each additional dish is another $1.39.

All the sudden, a manager arrives with a gong (how theatrical!) to announce the presentation of the rest of the duck. After the beautiful peony, everything else comes in a hacked up pile, seemingly to resemble the duck’s body. On the side, another dish holds slices of the duck’s neck and head – the neck is pretty tasteless but an interesting cut that’s not normally served.

QJD does provide plenty of steamed pancakes (24 to an order) all large enough to allow adequate folding around the ingredients. They’re unbelievably thin and elastic, one of the most impressive parts of the meal! Meanwhile, although the duck has glossy slightly crispy skin, it isn’t seasoned enough (especially the duck’s meat) so all the flavour comes from the condiments.

Surprisingly, despite the $118 price, there is no “second course”– typically lettuce wraps or the even a chopped-up carcass. Hence, even with all the dishes, it left our table of five comfortably satisfied but not overly full.

We opted for the cute duckling shaped crispy puff stuffed with date paste ($21.99) for dessert, which caused everyone to squeal like school girls when presented. In actuality, the overly thick pastry dough isn’t crispy and the dessert reminds me of a drier fig newton - picture worthy, but not an overly delicious dish. Luckily, we each received half a bowl of sweet almond soup, which although lukewarm helped to balance the crumbly dessert.

Without a doubt, QJD is nicely decorated and is a restaurant for celebrating an occasion or impressing guests. Unlike some Chinese restaurants, the service is also attentive and friendly: our waiter spoke three languages (so could answer everyone) and joked around with us.

Oddly, with all the branding elsewhere - from the gigantic duck out front to the duck chop stick holders) - their menu (the first thing a customer reads) looks like someone whipped it up on Excel and pressed print … not a drop of colour or even a logo in sight. I can understand they’re likely testing out the menu during their opening period, seeing what sells and adjusting accordingly, but at least pretty up the temporary document so it doesn’t paint such a stark contrast against everything else.

Duck statue, duck flowers, duckling desserts … all cute and flashy. Yet, I expected more from a restaurant that’s been operating for over 150 years. Who knows, maybe the recipe hasn’t changed since the Qing Dynasty and back then salt and spices were rare and used sparingly. Nowadays, it makes for a bland duck - pretty, but tasteless.

Overall mark - 6 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Markham, Canada
 Address: 7095 Woodbine Avenue

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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