While chef-ified Chinese food has continued to gain traction in Manhattan—starting with RedFarm, and building further momentum with places like Fung Tu, Tuome and China Blue—there’s been little to split the difference in Brooklyn between the highly traditional family-style eateries and dim sum halls of Sunset Park, and barrage of thoroughly Americanized beef and broccoli spots anchoring almost every neighborhood (the general consensus has been meh on places like Brooklyn Wok Shop). Granted, the Certified Green, Gowanus-based eatery, Michael & Ping’s, has also made attempts to modernize New Yorkers beloved cuisine, although that essentially translates to a line of Asian Panini’s (?) and using hormone-free chicken in their General Tso’s. So it just might be a new, welcome addition to the high-rise addled sprawl of Fourth Avenue that finally sets the wheels in motion, for a full-on, borough-wide, elevated Chinese food renaissance.
Owned by two young Hong Kong natives, Ben Pope and Kay Ch’ien, 2 Duck Goose seeks to reinvent—of all things—Cantonese cuisine (which, as opposed to spicy Sichuan and delicate Fujianese, is most often, albeit incorrectly, associated with sweet, gloppy sauces and bastardized dishes, like wobbly, gravy-sluiced Egg Foo Young). There’s a brief selection of sharable bites to start, such as eminently snackable Candied Walnuts, dusted with smoked salt and cayenne pepper, and a pale disc of Silken Tofu, jiggling gently in a soy sauce broth laced with Chinese pickles and ginger. And larger plates steer well clear of greasy tropes like Lo Mein, Sesame Chicken, and Beef in Black Bean Sauce, in favor of regionally influenced, thoughtfully refined dishes, including Paper Bag Fish (parchment roasted branzino), Cantonese Borscht Stew (a slow-braise of beef, beets and tomatoes, served with cilantro-garlic flatbread), and three takes on Char Siu (roasted pork), including Classic, dribbled with ginger and scallion sauce; Modern, strewn with pickled fennel and apple-beet puree; and Seasonal, currently plated with a celery root emulsion and pickled daikon-carrot slaw.
But as the name infers, the destination-worthy offering here is the full, Roasted Duck dinner (although as opposed to Chinatown’s spate of Peking duck houses, you won’t find these Crescent Farm-sourced birds pressed against the window, strung up by their wizened, tightly-trussed feet). Blessedly freed of its outer appendages before serving, the whole, dark and gamey midsection of meat arrives puddled in its own juices, covered with mahogany curls of impressively crisp, lacquered skin, and accompanied by plates of Chianking-marinated cucumbers, some of that silken tofu, a tumble of wilted seasonal greens, mounds of sweet and sour plum compote, and golden grains of aromatic saffron rice.
Since we’ve all essentially resigned ourselves to concluding Chinese meals with orange slices and fortune cookies, it’s also a pleasure to find two legitimate, fully-conceived desserts at 2 Duck Goose, including Black Sticky Rice Pudding, flavored with coconut milk and garnished with black and white sesame seeds and coconut flakes, and a Pineapple Rose Wine Tart, baked in a dense, dark chocolate crust. So does 2 Duck Goose do delivery? Not yet, unfortunately. But if you’re in or around the Gowanus area, they undoubtedly offer some of the tastiest, most unique Chinese takeout in all of Brooklyn.
400 4th Avenue, Gowanus