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Where can I find a great duck in Portland?
Inadvertently, I have been researching for this question for months. I adore duck, though the answer to this question varies based on the type of duck we’re talking about here. Seared breast? Cantonese roast? Confit?
Regardless of culinary tradition, there are some commonalities between well executed duck. The fat should be rendered reasonably well, leaving the meat juicy and the skin crisp. Any residual fat under the skin of the breast should be silken like good bone marrow, not chewy. The meat itself should be tender — not tough or overcooked — and well-seasoned. So, with those standards in mind, here are a few answers for you:
Cantonese Roast Duck: Fortune BBQ Noodle House
The name on every Cantonese barbecue fan’s lips right now is Fortune BBQ. This strip mall restaurant on 82nd typically draws fans for its roast pork and char siu, hanging from the case near the front of the restaurant; however, my partner and I almost always come in and order the roast duck. It’s available in a noodle soup or over rice, but we tend to order it on its own, simply served alongside a house plum sauce. The duck is perhaps the juiciest we’ve encountered; the fat isn’t completely rendered, but is certainly silken, and the skin has a nice crackle to it. The five spice comes through without overpowering the flavor of the meat, and the glaze brings out the duck’s sweetness. And, if I remember correctly, we didn’t spend more than $20 on it. Easily the best bang for your buck on this list. 18 SE 82nd Avenue
Beijing duck (often known as Peking duck), single course, served with pancakes: Janken
This is likely the most expensive duck on this list, which matches the general atmosphere of the restaurant within which it’s served — it’s the kind of place where you might spot a Trail Blazer, and you’ll definitely encounter plenty of gold leaf. And you know what? The duck is worth it. $69 gets you beautifully seasoned duck with expertly rendered fat, leaving slivers of Lay’s potato chip-crispy skin and juicy meat. For those seeking the classic East Coast Chinese restaurant Beijing duck experience, this is it: stacks of borderline see-through chun bing, not-too-sweet hoisin, classic accoutrement like cucumbers and scallions. Those anticipating a multi-course experience will be disappointed, however — no lettuce wraps or soup to follow here. 250 NW 13th Avenue
Beijing duck, multi course, served with steamed buns: Happy Dragon
Another 82nd entrant on this list, this family-owned, banquet-style Chinese restaurant used to operate as a much smaller spot in Independence, Oregon, where I first ate this duck — its skin was penny-toned, a sign of the delicate glaze and freshness of the duck. It was the first time I had Beijing duck with bao buns, which is a fun alternative to chun bing; diners build their own buns with hoisin and scallions, while the pickings from the carcass become a stir-fry to stuff into lettuce cups. Sometimes the second course changes, but if given the option, it’s best to ask for the stir-fry. Happy Dragon also offers whole- and half-orders of Cantonese roast duck, for those just in it for the bird.
Seared duck breast: Canard
When people think of Canard duck, they likely think of the Duck Stack: A pile of duck fat pancakes smothered in duck sausage gravy and topped, triumphantly, with a fried duck egg. For something far simpler, however, Canard recently introduced a simple preparation of duck frites: A seared Pekin duck breast, salted and dried overnight, with scored skin the color of redwood, laid over sherry creamed mushrooms and topped with a drizzle of bearnaise. Though I do love the Duck Stack, particularly when hungover, this is the duck preparation I’d order at Canard nine times out of ten. 734 E Burnside Street or 1500 Washington Street in Oregon City
It’s not always on the menu, but if you can pop into Bergerac in Woodstock and order the duck confit, you’ll be treated to a fall-apart tender leg of duck, salt-cured for flavor and a crisp exterior, super simply paired with green beans, potatoes, and onion jam. It’s not fancy, but for those in it for the duck, Bergerac delivers. 5520 SE Woodstock Blvd
If you can actually get a reservation to Kann, your meal must include chef Gregory Gourdet’s duck. Over the course of his career, Gourdet has cooked countless roast ducks, though this version feels thoroughly him: Breast and leg arrive on the plate — the former a dialed-in medium rare, the latter showcasing the char of the flames of the hearth — glazed in cane syrup with the acidity and depth of tamarind and pineapple. Save a plantain brioche bun to sop up the leftover glaze from the plate. 548 SE Ash Street
Honorary mentions: Gang ped at Paadee, cassoulet at Higgins
For the sake of brevity, I focused on dishes where duck was the starring role — however, there are a few other duck dishes worth an aside. Paadee’s gang ped pairs a crispy-skinned leg of duck with a pool of subtly spiced red curry, accompanied by hunks of delicata squash and bell pepper. And for cassoulet, Higgins uses the traditional Tarbais beans with its duck confit, plus a rich combo of pork and Toulouse sausage. That’s straight-up winter comfort food right there.