Susan Johnson (more chengdu)|
Many regions of China have their signature roast duck – Beijing style and Cantonese are quite well known. One style that is very common in Chengdu is where the roast duck is served in a soup – mao kao ya. Among my Chengdu newbie memories is a duck buying episode where I pointed at a gorgeous looking duck hanging in a window and watched as the duck I chose was hacked into pieces, mixed into a broth with chunks of duck blood, bean sprouts, and other seasonings, and the resulting duck soup poured into a plastic bag before being put in my startled hands.
A better introduction to mao kao ya would be a place like Zhang's. The roast duck served in savoury duck soup (冒烤鸭) is tender and flavourful. For those with sanguinary tastes, the duck blood in soup (冒鸭血) is also quite popular. We noticed a few customers eating roast duck Beijing style, wrapping up slices of crisp-skinned roast duck in thin pancakes with sauce and vegetables. The kitchen also produces confident versions of classic Sichuan dishes such as ribs steamed in sticky rice (糯米蒸排骨). Their mapo tofu is savoury and has the proper kick, and the vegetable dishes are fresh and carefully prepared. Their spicy marinated wood ear mushroom dish (木耳) was crisp and refreshing.
The weeknight crowd included a lot of family groups and friends dining together. There were a few smokers, but the place is well ventilated enough that the smokers didn't bother us too much. The servers are kept on their toes and don't pay a lot of attention to each table, but they were quite helpful when summoned. Zhang's is a good family restaurant with solid local food, and one of the few serious restaurants in the area where your food bill will be under 50 yuan per person.