LONDON FAT DUCK
B1-16/17 Scotts Square, 6 Scotts Road, tel: 6443-7866 (no reservations)
Open: 11am to 10pm (weekday), 10am to 10pm (weekend)
Price: $30 to $40 a person
The fact that two eateries opened within a month of each other - both touted as serving roast duck based on the popular dish from London's Four Seasons restaurant - begs the question: Whose duck is better?
The first to open, late last month, is Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant at the new Capitol Piazza. It is an offshoot of the original Bayswater eatery and is set up here with a group of local partners.
The second, London Fat Duck, which opened in Scotts Square 11/2 weeks ago, is a joint venture between two local food and beverage groups, Akashi and Fei Siong.
One would assume that Four Seasons, being by the original eatery, would win this battle of the ducks easily. However, there is a twist to the tale: The local outlet uses ducks from the Netherlands and Bangkok, not the British ducks served in London. London Fat Duck uses ducks from an Irish farm.
So which has the better roast duck? My answer - after tasting the ducks twice at each eatery - is London Fat Duck.
The bird ($26 for half a duck) does not boast a crisp skin, but the tender and juicy meat has a robust flavour that I don't find in other ducks I have eaten here. And it is not at all gamey.
A layer of fat under the skin adds an aroma to the meat that reminds me of Hong Kong roast goose. If the chef can manage to crisp the skin, this will definitely be the best roast duck in town.
The version at Four Seasons ($36 for half), however, pales in comparison, on top of being much more expensive. There is hardly any flavour in the meat, while the skin is just as limp.
Its saving grace is the delicious sauce that is poured over it prior to serving. A blend of duck juices, oils and soya sauce, it is tasty and fragrant and tastes best spooned over steaming white rice. It helps to take your attention from the bland-tasting meat.
But you don't go to either restaurant just to eat duck. So what other dishes should you order?
At Four Seasons, I would suggest a combination platter of Crispy Pork Belly and Soya Chicken ($28). The roast pork has an interesting contrast of moist, juicy meat and crispy crackling that I like. And the soya chicken is smooth and fragrant from the superior soya sauce used for the poaching.
The House Special "Pei-pa" Beancurd ($28) is good too. The deep-fried, round tofu balls taste of sweet seafood and come stir-fried with assorted vegetables such as carrot slices, peas, shimeji mushrooms and cloud fungus in tasty oyster sauce.
Round off the meal with the Lotus Leaf Fried Rice ($28), which also boasts the delicious flavour of good soya sauce and good wok hei.
Other dishes I have tried, such as Fried Crispy Chicken ($28 for half), Lotus Root Minced Pork ($28) and Toffee Apple ($14), are nothing to shout about.
Over at London Fat Duck, the choices are more limited. Besides roast meats, there are just noodle and congee items, as well as a selection of dim sum.
The duck items are the ones to try. Besides the roast, you should order the Signature Black Pepper London Duck Bun ($4.80 for three). The crispy bun is modelled after famous dim sum eatery Tim Ho Wan's char siew bao, but the filling is made with duck instead of pork. And the pepper in the sauce gives it a nice, fiery kick. The crust of the bun is coloured a mysterious grey, thanks to charcoal powder.
Other items on the menu are run-of-the-mill, though. The meat in the Braised Beef Brisket Noodle ($7.80) is not tender enough and the Seafood Congee "Ting Zai" Style ($6.80) is bland.
Dim sum items such as Shrimp In Beancurd Skin Fritters ($5.20) and Steamed Shrimp Dumplings ($5.80) are decent, but not outstanding.
So I would suggest you go to London Fat Duck for the roast duck and duck bun. And to Four Seasons for the roast pork and soya chicken, as well as the beancurd and fried rice.
As for the rest of the dishes, order them to fill your tummy. But don't expect to be blown away.
Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke
SundayLife! paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.