I can still hear the crackling sound of the crunchy duck skin as I took a bite of my delicate Peking Duck wrapped in thin, homemade pancakes. Located underneath Red Farm‘s West Village location, Decoy acts as an hidden Peking duck lair. Only 24 whole ducks are served each evenings, and reservations are essential to get inside.
In order to enjoy the signature dish of Peking Duck, you must partake in the prix fix menu. The menu varies based on the number of individuals in your party, adding more dishes as the number increases. You can order a la carte from the rest of the menu from the bar, but to me, it defeats the purpose of your trip.
We arrived as a party of four, sitting at the far end of the long communal table. Cocktail lists dangled from the ceiling on hangers with rustic lighting and ducks (decoy) of all shapes and sizes found in between.
As a party of four, in addition to the whole Peking Duck Dinner and all of the sides (Six types of Pickles, Decoy Chips, Duck Consomme Shots), we needed to select Four Starters, Two Entrees, and a Side or Fried Rice.
We pined over the menu, with the young and kind of spacey waitress giving very little direction. For such a pricey establishment, one would expect a professional, knowledgeable staff. Instead the waitress seemed to only recommend dishes with a supplemental fee, and continued to bother us for drink orders while we waited the arrival of our fourth guest.
Eventually, we caved to the pressure and ordered drinks before my sister’s arrival. My Dad decided to be the most adventurous of our crew, ordering a cocktail while my Mom and I stuck to wine. He’s a lover of anything spicy, so the Smoke N Spice drink was an immediate winner. For such spicy, tough guy kind of cocktail the presentation was far from that.
“Oooooh, who drinks from a Pineapple under Red Farm?” Not Spongebob, but I bet the SquarePants dude would’ve love the Smoke N Spice. The drink has an intense smokiness, which prevents the cocktail from being unbearably hot. I’ve never tried anything like this (or drank anything in that kind of cup at a restaurant not on the beach). Definitely win for cocktail creativity.
Pickles arrived first, a part of the Peking Duck Dinner. These were not your average cucumbers in a tray. Instead six different varieties in miniature tea cups were arranged in a circle on a wooden tray.
Six different vegetables, each prepared in a unique broth highlights the flavor of the ingredient. Squash sits in a curry-based sauce, while the Mango absorbs a sweet liquid. Each one is unique, and highly addictive, with the different textures and flavors working together in a harmonious way. The pickles excite the palate with sweet, spicy, saltiness filling the senses. The broth is outstanding, as well, with my Dad slurping each of the different little cups when all of the pickles fruits and vegetables had been devoured.
Decoy Chips, another part of the Peking Duck dinner arrived next. Light and crispy fried fish skins are served with a black garlic aioli.
Fish skins expand when fried, creating a similar texture to pork rinds. They are instantly addictive, light and airy, with a very subtle taste of the sea. A light sprinkle of red peppers and scallions sit on top of the chips, with a sweet and savory aioli sitting on the side. I would happily replace old fashioned potato chips for these on the reg.
Our starter dishes began to arrive slowly. One at a time, filling the table like a jigsaw to make enough space for the variety of dumplings, meats and dips.
Decoy takes the lead from its upstairs neighbor, with a variation of their Katz’s Pastrami Egg Rolls. Instead, at Decoy the dish is served as triangle puff-pastry. The filling remains relatively the same, with thinly sliced pieces of pastrami from the famous Katz’s deli mixed with sauerkraut fills the inside. Crispy wantons encase the warm pastrami inside with the sweet mustard sauce on the side.
We moved onto our one and only vegetarian dish of the evening, the pea shoot and peanut dumplings.
Pea shoots and dumplings are encased in a clear wrapper and cooked until the outside is crisp. They’re light and refreshing, with all of the vegetables providing a necessary relief from the parade of fried foods passing our lips.
Juicy pieces of grilled wagu beef soaked up the mild spice of fresh wasabi. A mild smokiness from the grill is infused into the bite sized pieces of wagu. On the side, an extremely spicy pile of kimichi contrasts the rich, juicy protein. I couldn’t handle the heat, so my Dad happily devoured the spicy cabbage while sharing stories of days in South Korea enjoying the delicacy on the street.
Oxtail dumplings rounded out the starters portion of the meal. Oxtail has a similar texture and flavor to braised short ribs, really sweet shredded meat encased in a crispy, thick dumpling. Served with the same black garlic aioli as the Decoy chips, it’s adds a smoky, sweet richness.
The wait staff poorly paced the meal, trying to bring Duck Dinner out as I still munched on my oxtail dumpling. We had to ask the staff not to remove the plate while I was still eating the food. Eventually, they got the hint, but it left a bit of a sour taste in our mouths in terms of service.
Poor service was immediately remedied with complimentary shots, shots, shots. Duck consomme shots, that is.
Finally it was go-time. The entire reason for our trip to Decoy was the Duck. The crackling, crispy, sweet, perfect Duck.
Look at this beauty! Layers of crackling skin cover pieces of light and dark duck meat, with the four drum sticks standing up. I am usually tasked with the job of making everyone’s pancakes, but this time, I chose to be selfish, allowing everyone to partake in the act of creating their own perfect wrap.
I mixed the hoisin and sesame sauce, followed by layers of the delicious, juicy duck meat and topped with the crispy skin, scallions and cucumbers. A little twist to the classic with the sesame and cucumber, while still letting the duck shine.
A thin layer of sesame and hoisin sauce were swirled together to create a sweet and smoky binding to hold the duck, crispy skin, scallions and cucumber in place. The misshapen pancakes are extremely thin, with a lightly golden brown coloring at parts exposed to the heat for a little bit longer. The moist duck is succulent and delightful, with all of the fat rendered out to leave thin pieces of crispy skin.
Peking Duck lives up to all expectations. The four of us left only a few stray pieces of scallions on the large plate, the remains of an exceptional duck preparation.
Believe it or not, there was still more food on its way. 2 entrees and a fried rice dish, to be precise.
At this point in the meal, we found ourselves taking tinier, and tinier bites of the delightful entrees until one-by-one we admitted defeat. Even my Dad, who never leaves a full plate of food behind, was defeated by the amount of food. The staff is happy enough to wrap up the left overs, without any judgement, which proved to make an incredible lunch for the next day.
Sweet and sour shrimp is ridiculous, with the jumbo pieces slathered in the sauce. Sticky and sweet, the sauce pools inside the individual pieces of shrimp, while all the glass noodles soak up the excess.
Delicate pieces of sea bass, served with the skin on, is mixed with a thin slices of ginger and lemon grass. It’s slightly spicy, yet very balanced and light. The kitchen uses a gentle hand with this dish, not dousing the sea bass in any type of heavy sauce. Simplicity at its finest.
A tower of fried rice is topped with three grilled pieces of jumbo shrimp, while the miniature version of the same protein is found throughout the rice. The crispy miniature shrimp adds an element of crunch, giving off the fresh seafood flavor with each and every bite. It’s an awesome fried rice dish, turned slightly glam.
We packed up our leftovers, clenching our stomachs and falling into a food coma. The dinner was incredible, moving with a steady pace and growing with excitement as the meal progressed. Typically, at a restaurant boasting one signature dish, all of the “other” dishes seem to fall to the wayside. Not this time. Each and every item on the menu is prepared with such care and precision that the entire meal impresses. The never-ending parade of food begins with the sextet of pickles and ends with the giant pile of fried rice.
Decoy mastered their signature Peking Duck and continues to shine in all of the other food departments. Working with the masters at Red Farm, the whimsical dishes are subtle and delightful. I hope the service improves to take Decoy to the next level of dining. You certainly get your bang for your buck, with a surplus of food and a variety of dishes to try. But the Duck. Oh the Duck. You will always be the star.
Decoy – 529 ½ Hudson Street – New York, NY
Location: West Village, NY
Perfect For: Prix Fix, Special Occasions, Dinner with Parents, Date Night, Adventurous Eating
Reservations: Recommended via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Favorite Dishes: Peking Duck, Katz Pastrami Triangles, Grilled Wagu Beef, Sweet and Sour Shrimp, Shrimp “Two Ways” Fried Rice