Life List #264: Indulge in the Beijing Duck Dinner at Sun Wah BBQ.
At the beginning of 2019 I made a list of 12 restaurants that I really wanted to go to, one for each month of the year.
I have this tendency to go to the same handful of places over and over again. To never leave my neighborhood. To sacrifice quality for convenience. To say, “I really want to go there,” to a new opening or a recommendation or a best-of list selection and then never actually go.
So, I thought, I’m going to make this list and try one new place every month.
And then, in the entirety of 2019, I made it only to one place on that entire list. And then so, only because someone else had planned to go and invited me.
So, this year, I decided to try again. 12 new places I’ve “always wanted to go to.” One for each month of 2020.
Fearful I would again renege on that promise I had made to myself, that I would go another entire year only eating out at the sushi restaurant down the block from me or the bar across the street, I started this year out with a bang. Last weekend, my birthday weekend, I made it to two and a half of those restaurants in less than three days time.
The Sun Wah BBQ Beijing Duck Dinner was on both my list of 12 restaurants to visit in the next 12 months of my life and on my life list.
Because in addition to making restaurant-specific lists of places I want to go to and never actually go to, I also add restaurants to my life list and still never actually go to them.
It was so important that this duck found its way to my mouth that I added it to both lists. Albeit two lists it sat on for over a year. But, whatever.
The Beijing Duck Dinner at Sun Wah BBQ in Chicago is a three-course duck feast. It features a whole roasted duck carved tableside and then served in decadent pieces with bao, hoisin sauce, and pickled vegetables. But it doesn’t stop there. They then pick off the scraps from the bones to make a second course of fried rice. Then use the bones themselves to make a soup for course three.
All for only $45.
Now $45 might sound like a lot but that duck could have easily fed four or more people. I just went as a party of two.
My friend Nick was in town and whenever Nick and I are together, we eat. When I visited him in Austin a few years back we famously ate and drank at 26 different places over the course of four days. And last time he visited Chicago I took him to all my favorite places. So I knew that he’d be up to the challenge of eating an entire duck with me.
I was beyond giddy when we arrived for our reservation. We promptly ordered the off-menu duck and then waited, and waited, and salivated at every other duck that passed us by.
It took over an hour from ordering until the duck meant for us was carted to our table. We hastily photographed our prized attraction as a woman in a black apron sharpened her cleaver and expertly carved the legs and the breast.
A platter of duck was placed in front of us. And it was good duck. Crispy skin on top of soft fat on top of juicy meat. Some we put into bao topped with all the hoisin sauce and vegetable garnishes, others we picked from the platter and sucked from the bone.
And the food just kept coming. A giant bowl of broth. A giant plate of fried rice. Food. Lots of food.
Nick and I did good. We ate a fair share of the Beijing duck each. Had some of the soup. Had some of the rice.
It was hard to stop ourselves from eating more and more of that tender duck but, eventually, we had to call it. That duck was meant for more than two people. And we were only two people.
We left with bellies full, with an item crossed off of both of my lists, and with a take-out bag that would afford me five extra meals throughout the week.
Indulge in the Beijing Duck Dinner at Sun Wah BBQ in Chicago was #264 on my life list.
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