Few visitors to Beijing leave without trying Peking duck—the city’s signature dish—at least once. Some can’t get enough of it, but many others are less enamored, declaring it too fatty and greasy. I’ve found five places that will change their minds. The first is Restaurant Made in China, in the Grand Hyatt. Sourced from a high-quality farm on the city’s outskirts, its duck is blanched in a water, vinegar, and sugar mixture, hung to dry, and roasted for 90 minutes in an oven that burns apricot wood. It’s then carved tableside (into about 80 pieces) and served with pancakes, sugar, leeks, cucumbers, and garlic and honey-sesame sauces. The industrial-chic, French-tinged Duck de Chine also cooks its birds in a wood-fired oven, where the ducks are left to linger to burn off excess fat. The result is super-lean meat and tissue-thin skin, which one can top with sauces like hoisin, peanut, and sesame. The ducks at Da Dong Roast Duck can be small—maybe not enough for very hungry diners—but the chef ensures quality by raising them himself. Their sugar-dusted skin is sweet and crackly, and there’s simply nothing else like it. Xiang Man Lou, meanwhile, is a cafeteriaesque spot where locals and expats line up for flawless, traditionally cooked (and more gently priced) duck. And all my friends tell me to try Bianyifang, whose history dates back to 1416; its closed-oven cooking method keeps the duck just a bit fatty but never greasy.
Restaurant Made in China, dinner, $45; 1 E. Chang An Ave.; 86-10/8518-1234; beijing.grand.hyatt.com. Duck de Chine, dinner, $45; 1949-the Hidden City, Courtyard 4, Gong Ti Bei Lu, Chaoyang; 86-10/6501-8881. Da Dong Roast Duck, dinner, $35; Jinbao Place, Fifth Fl., 88 Jinbao Jie, Dongcheng; 86-10/8522-1234. Xiang Man Lou, dinner, $15; 19 Xinyuan Xili Zhongjie, Chaoyang; 86-10/6460-6711. Bianyifang, dinner, $15; 2A Chongwenmenwai Dajie, Chongwen; 86-10/6712-0505.