Peking duck has been served at Departure's Portland location for the past 5 years, so the team was excited to launch it here in Denver. "We will only be doing it in December. Yes, because it takes so much time, but also because we want people to look forward to it next year and come back for it," explains executive chef Khamla Vongsakoun.
He continues: "There are very few dishes that are a true team effort. But this duck touches every single station of the kitchen except for our sushi station. And we might try to change that."
It's a 5-day process, from butcher to table. It begins with a day of curing, in a 5-spice rub with salt and sugar. Then the duck hangs for three days in the refrigerator, which helps to achieve the crispiest possible skin. After that, it rests before finally being roasted on the day it's served.
The roasting isn't quite that simple though. The duck goes in and out of the oven several times, to be glazed, rotated, and then returned at different temperatures. The final step is a minute in the fryer to really crisp everything.
The duck is then presented to the table, just before chef breaks down the bird. He carefully separates the larger sections of meat and delicately removes the skin before slicing and plating. He tops the sliced meat with candied kumquats and their juices and it is served with pancakes, scallions, cucumbers, hoisin and plum sauces.
"I think this dish is representative of the season. It's all about sharing and the flavors: cinnamon and cloves are everywhere during the holidays. It also fits what we do at Departure. It's traditional but with our flair."
The grand finale is the surprise duck fried rice. While the table eats the first course, the kitchen uses the duck trimmings, rendered duck fat, and liver to create fried rice. So just when you're polishing off the first round of food, a second bowl comes out for the table to share.
This dish will only be offered this month, so grab three friends and head in to Departure for a complete dining experience.
UPDATE: For the best odds of actually having this dish, pre-order when you make your reservation.