The real Beijing Duck
At No. 8 China House, with its soft lighting and wooden interiors and the aroma of piping hot dim sum and Peking duck inviting you in, you can close your eyes and feel yourself transported to the only superpower in this part of the world. The waitstaff, however, are clad in muted maroon and aubergine instead of the usual bright red with touches of gold uniform. The floor to ceiling windows showcase the Bonifacio Global City skyline. There is an overall feel of understated elegance that has become the trademark of all Grand Hyatt hotels worldwide.
It is one of seven food and beverage (F&B) options at the 66-story Grand Hyatt Manila, which prides itself as the tallest skyscraper in the country. No less than President Rodrigo Duterte unveiled the official marker of the property together with Metrobank founder and hotel owner George Ty in September last year.
“The Grand Hyatt is very iconic, not just the imposing building with nice, warm touches but the location as well. The Tys wanted a hotel that is bold and stands out. They did not want a cookie-cutter hotel,” said General Manager Gottfried Bogensperger in an exclusive interview days after No. 8 China House opened its doors to the public.
“It is the same thing for our F&B stations. We want to stamp our own personality on things, including our restaurants. We want No. 8 China House to be authentic, and to achieve that we had to bring in seven Chinese chefs – four Cantonese, one from Beijing, one from Sichuan, and one from Shanghai. You should not be afraid to make such investments, especially as this is our core business,” he added.
Perhaps the showstopper among the roasted meat offerings at No. 8 China House is its Peking duck, which is slow roasted for an hour in a specially built wood-fired oven using aromatic mango wood as fuel.
“We wanted to serve authentic Beijing duck, not the roasted duck that others pass off as Beijing duck,” said Bogensperger.
To ensure a stable and sustainable supply, Grand Hyatt Manila partnered with Laguna-based EJG Mighty Duck Farm, Inc. for a minimum of 500 ducks monthly.
“We asked the duck farm owner that we need these Mandarin ducks raised based on our specifications. The ducks needed to be at least three kilos each before they are ready for cooking. The manner of slaughtering the ducks had to be taught as well, because they have to remove the innards from under the wing so as not to break the skin,” said Bogensperger.
It takes about 48 hours to prepare Beijing duck, and just like any authentic traditional meal, one may have the money to pay, but you’d still have to call in advance for this dish.
The duck is carved tableside by expert chefs and served alongside traditional condiments such as delicate Chinese pancakes, cucumber, hoisin sauce, and sugar.
“The beauty of an authentic Peking Duck dish is the manner of consuming it – knowing the right way to enjoy it defines if you consumed a roast duck or an actual Peking Duck,” said No. 8 China House’s chef de cuisine Masterchef Carson Luo.
The delicacy can be consumed three-ways: the crispy skin is served as first course, eaten after it is dipped in sugar to further enhance its flavor; the tender and flavorful meat delicately wrapped in thin pancakes together with crunchy cucumber and hoisin sauce as main course; and deep fried duck bones as last course.
In the next six months, Grand Hyatt Manila would have already opened all its F&B stations, namely The Grand Kitchen (all-day buffet that serves dishes cooked a la minute), The Lounge (where one can enjoy afternoon high tea with live entertainment from 2:00 p.m. onwards), The Cellar (which specializes in Mediterranean small plates and tapas together with a wine bar), The Pool House (for al fresco BBQ dining), The Peak (which features a grill restaurant, a speakeasy, and a whisky bar with cabaret and music lounge) and The Penthouse on the 66th floor for a residential style kitchen for intimate, private meetings that also has access to The Peak.
“By giving guests our full-attention and making them feel celebrated, we hope to build an emotional connection with them to ensure that their stay with us will be unforgettable,” said Bogensperger.
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