Both flesh and pancakes are ultra-thin at Peking Duck Restaurant.

Image: Alice Levitt

When Peking Duck Restaurant opened in September in the former Chuan's space at 5901 Westheimer Road, it was ballyhooed as a branch of Chinese chain Quan Ju De Roast Duck. While CultureMap reported that the chef claims to have worked at the Toronto location of the storied restaurant, the Houston eatery dropped the "QJD" from its name shortly after opening.

The bait and switch has left a sour taste in the mouths of Yelpers, who have taken to the site to dole out single-star reviews resulting in a paltry two stars overall. But when I convinced some slightly reticent friends to join me for duck last weekend, I was pleasantly surprised.

There are ample options besides the duck, ranging from deeply Chinese braised pork shoulder with sea cucumber to all-American chicken nuggets and truffle fries. For $5, my crew and I sprang for a sizable bowl of dan dan noodles, which we hastily demolished, thanks to a just-right dosage of chile oil.

Ignore the famous initials. These guys are doing just fine on their own.

Image: Alice Levitt

The wait was on the long side for the duck, but at around 45 minutes, it seemed downright speedy next to reports of two-hour-plus wait times. And it was worth every minute. What arrived at the table was the elegantly thin-sliced portions of the $48 Famous Peking Duck. For another $20, we could have upgraded to the Peking Duck in Three Way, which also includes soup and spiced bones. But the optimally moist meat attached to perfectly crisp skin with nary a hint of un-rendered fat was just what we desired. Soft crêpe-like pancakes arrived warm in a steamer, ready to drape the meat along with a smear of hoisin and freshly cut cucumber and scallions. It is difficult to imagine a better single bite.

The duck is also available in a variety of $9.99 lunch-only dishes, including sushi rolls, bao and tacos. At some point, I'll have to try them all, as well as the combo that includes the two other uses of the duck. But I left Peking Duck restaurant feeling perfectly satisfied, both in stomach and in the knowledge that, sometimes, the crowd is wrong.

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