We took family to one of the best Chinese restaurants in Ginza in our latest magazine. Take a look what delights we found.
With two branches here in Tokyo, run directly from Beijing, the Zenshutoku chain (pronounced Quanjude in Mandarin) serves over two million roast ducks, in 400 different styles, to over five million customers every year.
The place has impressive scale and a history to match – its flagship Beijing store can have up to 400 staff working to serve 900 customers at any one time and was established back in 1864, during the Qing Dynasty.
Sticking with traditional methods when roasting duck for their most well-known dishes, they use open ovens and hardwood fuel such as Chinese date, peach or pear tree wood to add a subtle, fruity flavor and a golden crisp to the skin without too much smoke.
We headed to Ginza to experience for ourselves some of the high quality food we hear has such a following and is always ranked so highly in the Japanese press.
Entering the restaurant, we already knew we were in for something memorable and immediately knew what to expect of the speciality – the open duck oven was located right before our eyes, just a window away from the lobby.
A dilemma many of us face when thinking about eating out is that we don’t want to compromise on the menu but do have the kids with us, as was the case when we visited. It was an early Sunday evening and suited our group of young family and friends perfectly.
While Zenshutoku might normally be more suited to a business lunch or impressive dinner, Zenshutoku had a welcoming atmosphere and the place seemed versatile.
The private dining room selected for us was spacious and stylish, classic without feeling stuffy and we felt totally relaxed. Staff were attentive without being overbearing and treated the children – who seemed to particularly like our prawn starter – with care.
It is a great feeling to know that things are taken care of but that we would still be having a top class dining experience.
Those prawns were served with a lightly spiced chinese sausage, steamed egg and slices of fresh vegetables, introducing our palates to some of the flavours we could look forward to.
More seafood came next, fried prawns seemed indulgent but even though wrapped in mayonnaise and batter and coated with crispy shreds of potato, somehow didn’t seem greasy, something that was a common theme throughout our dinner.
Even the fried rice served towards the end of the meal was light, not too salty and felt very fresh. Cubes of meat and vegetables ran right through the grains of rice and the flavours were satisfyingly well balanced.
For the main event, a touch of theatre; the chef appeared in our room to carve our duck, of course the real speciality of Zenshutoku, and there was a surprise.
Staff introduced the dishes to those of us not so familiar with the style and when explaining how and why the natural sweetness of plum sauce matches duck so well they had an easy task. Before that, though, we were served crackling-like shards of skin in a less familiar way.
Reminding us again how duck fat can be offset by sweetness, our waitress sprinkled grains of sugar directly onto the skin, an interesting new combination for us; it wasn’t a gimmick, somehow the fat seemed to melt into the mouth and it was a mouth watering combination that really warmed us up.
Perfectly succulent duck rolls (we opted for a domestic bird) and then a steamed bun with plenty of juicy meat were carefully made for us and handed out next, though not before our waitress checked whether the children wanted negi (they did, and loved it).
Sweet and sour pork with diced pineapple was sharp and succulent, somehow a perfect match for the Chinese rice wine we took very little persuasion to try.
Served over ice, it was easy to drink and perfect for the occasion but there is an impressive list of beers and western style wines, too. Lunch service would be a great introduction, the restaurant offers a range of courses to suit all budgets but for the true taste of Beijing, the evening menu is well worth looking into.
Finishing with dessert and tea, we kept coming back to the point that everything felt so fresh and seemed to lack any enhancers or additives. The textures and flavours were balanced and for such an indulgent, banquet style dining experience we never felt the food was too heavy. At Zenshutoku you can truly sit back, relax, and just enjoy treating yourself.
Prices range from 1,575 yen to 5,300 yen per person at lunch and evening courses start at 6,800 yen and rise up to 28,000 per person. Weekender ate a selection from the lowest priced evening course. Drinks extra.
Zenshutoku in part sponsored this article. To find out more about the restaurant, see their website (in Japanese).
Zenshutoku has branches in Shinjuku and Ginza.
Ginza Branch: Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-18-7. Tel: 03-5568-8668
Shinjuku Branch: Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-32-10 5-18-7. Tel: 03-3358-8885