I didn’t realize until we sat down in the Royal China restaurant in Canary Wharf that it’s been a LONG time since I had some good, old-fashioned, perhaps westernized Chinese food. (On a whim, a while back, Dan and I did pop into a restaurant in Chinatown to try some crispy aromatic duck, but it was a dry, tasteless disaster and made me long for the Peking Duck House in New York. And here’s one explanation of the differences between the two dishes.)
And so for some reason, perhaps for that reason, we haven’t tried too much Chinese food in London. Which is to say, I may have been simply craving it, but the food at Royal China was, I thought, wonderful.
We started with some crispy squid with spicy salt, then moved on to eggplant with minced dried shrimp in black bean sauce and a huge pot of rice cooked in a lotus leaf (and studded with shrimp and pork), and then we had another go at the crispy aromatic duck.
The menu actually offered a choice of crispy aromatic duck or Peking duck (which is harder to find in London), so we chose the Peking duck, of course. But the waitress talked us out of it, saying the aromatic duck was better while simultaneously assuring us that the two dishes were exactly the same. (The difference, it turns out, at least at Royal China, is that the Peking duck is sliced, whereas the aromatic is shredded.) And I was kind of surprised when it came out five minutes after ordering (at places back in New York, you have to call in advance or at least wait a good long while for it). Clearly, Royal China has a stockpile in the kitchen. After we were shown our bronzed half duck, the waitress whisked it away to shred it, and when it returned to us, it was delicious, with such delicate pancakes and sticky hoisin sauce and slivers of scallions·(what the Brits call spring onions). It tasted so nice that I didn’t complain about the meat being served at room temperature, rather than hot, which I would have preferred.
Service was friendly and efficient, and when I asked if I could take home the leftovers—steeling myself for being shot down, as I am elsewhere all over London—the waitress said, “of course.” (And surprise, the food came out in a bag emblazoned with the logo for Seamless Web, which is a delivery service I used all the time in New York and is also available, apparently, in London—though not for my neighborhood.)
But there was no fortune cookie—unfortunately.