Let’s just take a moment to admire this plate of Peking Roast Duck. Succulent, flavoursome meat, all freshly sliced and piled high…
Zenshutoku is renowned for its Peking duck and it boasts that it uses the same recipe as Quanjude in Beijing, established in 1864 and considered one of the pioneers of this delicious creation. It therefore seemed the perfect to celebrate Chinese New Year and I was delighted to be invited to join classmates for a rather special meal.
Yet I learned a very valuable lesson by visiting Zenshutoku. It wasn’t from the restaurant per se but the circumstances under which I found myself there. I had glanced briefly at the menu before attending – it looked very pricey (I couldn’t see a course menu for under 8000 yen) yet I was encouraged by the fact that the organiser said he’d spent around 4000 – 5000 yen last time. I was prepared to pay for good quality duck.
So let’s just say it was a bit of a shock when – having had no look at the menu or say in the order – I was suddenly asked for 10,800 yen. To put that in perspective, a filling lunch can cost anywhere between 650 to 1200 yen. The most I’ve ever paid for dinner was 4000 yen.
Prestige, quality, expensive food item… considering all these factors, was it worth it?
The acid test is: am I dreaming about the food and reliving its taste with a smile on my face?
Sadly, no. The food was lovely but not spectacular. Did I prefer the dishes at my local Chinese in London, which is a little grubby, where they slam the plates down as if we should be grateful, and where I’ll be beyond full for 2700 yen? Yes. Do I dream about going back to the London haunt? Yes.
Rant over about the expense, there are dishes worth mentioning…
And then, there are the dishes that were nice but have left no indelible memory. And the really fatty soup that was actually a little bit gross.
OH I’M SORRY, DID YOU WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE DUCK?
It is a ritual that is worth beholding. The staff bring out the bird on a table and a chef, replete in a chef’s hat, begins to carve.
The duck is layered on a plate. Then it is put into the pancakes with salad and a sauce that is much tangier and less sweet than the hoisin sauce served in Chinese restaurants in the UK.
Then, it’s munching time. The duck was succulent and full of flavour, but inside I have to confess – and maybe this makes me a philistine – I prefer the crispier, and probably non-authentic stuff, with the sweeter hoi sin sauce. Apologies Zenshutoku, but it fell short of my expectations. Maybe my expectations were too high. Oh wait, how much did this cost again?
The highlight, perhaps, was not the food, but this wonderfully gimmicky commemoration certificate, which for some reason I thought was a registration number/ID for the duck I had just eaten. I prefer that interpretation – it means, I can tell myself I took home a duck passport. It only cost me 10,800 yen.
Zenshutoku / 全聚徳 3/5 – The food was enjoyable, but the price is for prestige rather than gastronomic feats.
Food 3.5/5 – Great quality, well-executed and beautifully presented. There just wasn’t a standout dish that made me want to lick the platter into fragments.
Value 2/5 – I’m not against paying for quality but I want the meal to sing to my tastebuds for a decade if it’s as pricy as Zenshutoku.
Service 5/5 – Great carving ceremony from the chef and a lovely explanation from the waiting staff about the history of Peking duck.
Atmosphere 5/5 – We had a private room and a large round table, making it a very sociable affair. The decor was grea
Where: 〒104-0061 Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza, 5−8−17, 銀座ワールドタウンビル6F
Transport: Ginza station
When: Mon – Fri 11:30 – 15:00 (LO 14:30), 17: 00 – 23: 00 (LO 22: 00); Sat, Sun, Hols 11: 30 – 22: 00 (LO 21: 00)