At No. 8 China House, the recipe for the perfect Peking duck starts with what the duck eats.
The new Cantonese restaurant at Grand Hyatt Manila is modern, but the cooking technique is traditional. Manager Alex Ho even calls it an “art” and “a celebration of authenticity.”
“The recipe was formulated centuries ago by the ancestors of our Peking duck expert, chef Victor Yuan,” Ho explained. “The recipe is meticulously followed—from what the duck is fed, to how it is bred and prepared for cooking, all the way to how it is served.”
To achieve authenticity, and to make sure that sourcing is sustainable, the Grand Hyatt kitchen crew led by executive chef Mark Hagan visited the supplier’s farm in Laguna. They coordinated with Myles Guillermo, the executive farmer of EJG Mighty Duck Farm, who said Yuan was looking for a very particular taste: “fatty with a special flavor on the skin.”
On the farm, the ducks are kept in an area exclusive to Grand Hyatt. It took months of trial and error before chef Yuan approved the breeding process.
Such was the challenge for Guillermo, who spent weeks observing, feeding and even bathing the ducks. “The major difference that renders the flavor distinct is in the way the fowl is slaughtered; it may sound like a small thing, but it’s not!”
Peking duck, 3 ways
Ideal for family celebrations, No. 8 China House seats 186 and has seven snazzy VIP rooms. The floor has an open kitchen where diners can watch chefs cook the food—very Instagrammable.
It is a spectacle to watch the Peking duck slowly roasting till golden in a wood-fired oven fueled with mango wood. Upon serving, the fragrant whole duck (P3,998; P1,998 for half) is then skillfully carved by a chef.
According to chef de cuisine Carson Luo, Peking duck is meant to be eaten three ways.
As a starter, dip the crisp skin in white sugar for subtle caramelization. Then, have it as a duck roll with hoisin sauce by wrapping the sliced meat, leeks and cucumber in thin Chinese “pancakes.”
Last, enjoy picking toasty meat off the fried duck bones—a salty surprise that pairs well with the full-bodied house craft beer.
We had the succulent duck as part of No. 8 China House’s opening ceremony menu. It is flavorful and clean-tasting, and is best eaten with the appetizers: chilled black fungus, water spinach, char siu and barbecued pork.
Warm soup was chunky Double-Boiled Seafood Soup with shrimp, crab and winter melon.
Other dishes we liked are Wok-Fried King Prawn with honey, the classic Sweet and Sour Pork, and the basic monochromatic pancit with nothing on it—the E-Fu Noodle.
Ho suggested other dishes for first-time diners: “The braised sea bass is a crowd favorite. The soft and tender Abalone Casserole with ginger, garlic, onion and rice wine is crafted by chef Carson. There’s also an array of handmade dim sum.”
Before transferring to Manila, Ho worked in Grand Hyatt Hong Kong for 17 years. He wanted to keep No. 8 China House “an informal and fun restaurant” for local diners despite its fine-dining vibe.
“The open kitchen is interactive and entertaining; it eliminates the boredom of waiting for the food,” Ho said as we took videos of a chef fishing hot, steaming Peking duck out of the oven.
For dessert, choices include Baked Hong Kong Egg Tart, coconut ice cream, mango pomelo sago, steamed wheat bun with custard and chocolate, jellies and fresh fruits. Or make everyone happy and just order the No. 8 China House Grand Dessert Platter.
No. 8 China House is at 5/L, Grand Hyatt Manila, 35th St., Taguig City. Visit https://manila.grand.hyatt.com