When we first arrived in Beijing, our local branch of Dayali became a landmark for us in finding our way home. “We must go and eat there some time,” we always said, yet never did.
Now, with a move to Shunyi imminent, we’re trying to make the most of our last days in Chaoyang, and finally made it to Dayali to sample the Beijing Roast Duck.
On a previous occasion we’d been warned off going there for a special occasion, as Dayali is a low budget chain restaurant. However with children it’s often more enjoyable to go somewhere cheap and cheerful, than to be worrying that their behavior might be spoiling a high class ambience. The branch we visited (on the corner of Yaojiayuanlu and Shifoyinglu) was clean and well presented, with friendly, helpful staff.
We ordered the “Gold Duck” at RMB 158, and we were not disappointed. It came with pancakes, julienned cucumber and spring onion, pieces of quince, and hoisin sauce for dipping. The skin was crispy, the meat juicy without fattiness, and the quantity adequate for five of us, though we were all racing to scoff as much as possible.
The side dishes also went down a treat: spinach and peanuts in vinegar, broccoli and edamame, mapo doufu, and sweet pumpkin sticks. There was nothing on the menu which was not familiar from other local restaurants, but each dish found that harmony between contrasting flavors which is the goal of Chinese cuisine.
We did encounter one difficulty: the fuwuyuan asked us a question which even my 11 year old, by far the best Chinese speaker among us, could not understand. Seeing our bafflement, she then wrote it down for us. (Why do people do that? If we can’t make out what you’re saying, the chances of us being able to read your handwritten hanzi are slim to bupkiss.) Next the phone came out, and she typed her question for it to be helpfully translated into incomprehensible Chinglish. “It will help you to stew,” was one memorable highlight.
In the end we just agreed with whatever it was she was proposing. It turned out to be that the rest of our duck went into a soup, which made a refreshing conclusion to our meal.
Dayali is probably not the best spot for a date night, assuming you want to make your loved one feel special, but for an affordable, relaxed family meal, with duck as the centerpiece, it’s a quacker. (Sorry.) It’s the real teal. (Apologies again.) It’s mallard to beat. (OK, I really am going to stop now.)