A new restaurant can inspire a mixture of anticipation and dread: will it live up to its pre-opening hype? Or it can feel like a welcome reunion with much-missed friends, if the owners are essentially re-creating a beloved and bygone establishment. That's what's going on at Chinatown's new China King, from the folks behind the old King Fung Garden, which means you're in for some spectacular versions of Shandong and Beijing cuisine.
China King starts by hand-making beautiful things with Northern China's staple of wheat flour: stranded pasta, dumpling wrappers, tortilla-like thin pancakes for wrapping. Peking raviolis ($6.95/eight) and scallion pie ($3.95) offer fine examples of the kitchen's excellent, ungreasy frying technique. Soups are similarly hearty, like chun roo mein ($6): narrow, flat noodles with pork, scrambled egg, tree ear, tiger lily buds, and bok choy in a rich, slightly murky broth. Here, chow mein means delectable housemade noodles the shape of thick linguine: Szechuan pickles with pork chow mein ($6.95) is a stir-fry of noodles, big chunks of pork, and julienned, lightly pickled vegetables. Vegetable dishes include justly popular pea pod stems with garlic ($11.95) and modestly fiery dry bean curd with longhorn peppers ($7.25).
But China King's crowning glory is doubtless its traditional three-course rendition of Peking duck ($38; order 24 hours ahead), which will generously feed four eaters and stuff three to the gills. Brought to the table briefly for you to admire its gleaming bronzed (head-on) magnificence, it returns from the kitchen first in the form of crackly roasted skin and drumsticks with scallions, hoisin, and housemade pancakes. Using the scallion "brush," you paint the flatbread with hoisin, shred some scallion onto it, add a few pieces of duck, and roll up for a few crisp/salty/sweet/fatty/chewy bites of wonderment. Next up is a stir-fry of the lean, dark duck meat; our server suggested doing this with the noodles, a terrific idea. Last comes a large soup made from the carcass, a pale broth with a lovely duck flavor plus bok choy and cubes of tofu — a delicate way to fill in the corners of your stomach. This is easily one of the best and most delicious deals in Chinatown, if not the city: a luxurious but budget-friendly feast. Sweet service and the gracious hospitality of hostess/co-owner Doris Mei in a bright-red, 30-seat storefront make for a perfect, cozy package, and an essential new stop on Boston's traditional Chinese cuisine circuit.
CHINA KING, located at 60 Beach Street in Boston, is open daily from 11 am–2 am. Call 617.542.1763.