Taste this!

Taste this!

CorrespondentSeptember 2, 2005 

Psst! Wanna score some Peking duck?

No, I'm not talking about the glorified moo shu that most area restaurants pass off as Peking duck. I'm talking about the real deal, the multi-course extravaganza that justifiably ranks as one of the world's great meals. Believe it or not, you don't have to travel to a city large enough to have a Chinatown to find it.

But you will have to look carefully to find Red Palace, tucked into the end of one of the dozens of nondescript strip malls that line New Bern Avenue in East Raleigh. The area is hardly noted as a culinary hot spot, I know. But this little eatery sells so much Peking duck -- most of it to in-the-know Chinese natives -- that you don't even have to give the kitchen the customary 24-hour notice to order it.

Not long after you've placed your order, the chef wheels out a cart bearing a whole duck, its skin a burnished mahogany. He carves the skin into little squares and places them neatly on a platter, then does the same with the meat. As you roll the savory bits of meat, crispy skin and scallions up into homemade Chinese pancakes smeared with hoisin sauce, he returns to the kitchen with the carcass, which is to become the foundation of the following courses.

When the chef returns, he has worked his alchemy on the carcass, transforming it into a rich, golden soup with tofu and napa cabbage. A little later, a third course arrives as a stir-fry of bean sprouts, scallions and the remaining shreds of duck, served with steamed rice.

All for $25.95, mind you, and it's more than enough for two hungry people.

Now that the word is out, though, you might want to call ahead, to make sure they haven't sold out.

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