Every year, I have an annual year-end dinner event with a group of close friends living in NYC, having been to different places like Gramercy Tavern, ABC Kitchen and Contra. Being the food snob in the group, it often falls on me to identify and reserve a restaurant. A month ago, when we were discussing where to eat, someone mentioned Peking duck and Decoy operated by the same group behind RedFarm. I have been to RedFarm and never had a bad meal during my visit but have not yet tried Decoy given that it is often difficult to coordinate with a large group of people to book a table way in advance (and judging by the looks of the dining space when we showed up, the popularity of the restaurant has not diminished). Now that we penciled in a date, it was easier for me to book a table for six exactly one month before, although I was asked to hand my credit card number and told that if there is a party size change due to bailouts of some people in the group, I should notify them at least 48 hours in advance or we will be charged for the price of six people. When we stepped into the subterranean space of Decoy, we were seated at the edge of the long communal table closest to the door so whenever someone opened the door, we were at the mercy of chilly winter wind. It didn’t help that our seating was not big enough for six, but more appropriate for five; we mildly protested to no avail. Despite these logistical issues, I can still confidently say that Decoy is well worth the trip.
At $79.99 per person, the prix fixe option at Decoy is perhaps one of the best bargains in the city because in addition to two Peking ducks, you are also allowed to have four small dishes, three large dishes, one large dish and one side dish for a group of six. Before all these started coming out, though, I had a really hard time resisting the temptation to fill up my belly with branzino skin chips that came first as snacks. These chips were incredibly delicious with a perfect crunchy taste that would be welcome at any party. Some of the strongest dishes at RedFarm during my visit came from dumplings, and similarly Decoy’s dumplings were outstanding too, including oxtail dumplings that were full of rich and robust flavor and moonlit shrimp, corn and black truffle dumplings that would were delightful bites. We also tried for appetizers shrimp stuffed shishito peppers (another winner in the category) and grilled wagyu beef pieces (marinated with fresh wasabi) with a side of kimchi that reminded me a lot of very well-marinated galbi in Korean BBQ world.
The Peking duck came next, and it was one of the better Peking duck dishes I’ve had in a while. The duck’s texture was more or less perfectly moist and with three different sauces (including cranberry which surprisingly worked well with the meat) and the wrap/scallion combination, our feast became one happy affair. After you have some of the delicious meats, you have a decision to make. My wife Jun, always partial to duck meat, focused on the Peking duck the rest of the way during our meal, not even bothering to try some of the large dishes that came out. She relentlessly went after the duck meat, and declared with huge satisfaction that she won’t have a craving for duck meat for the rest of the year. I, on the other hand, stopped after two wraps so that I have room for other dishes, which in my view was a wise choice as the other dishes were all winners. The steamed seabass with black bean and basil sauce was very well cooked with sweet and sour flavor that complemented the fish very well, while prosperity prawns with truffled egg white sauce had a very smoky sensation that was quite irresistible. Add the “emperor’s favorite” sautéed chicken with eggplant and a side of crab and scallop fried rice, and you have a one heck of a meal, although everyone was absolutely stuffed toward the end so we didn’t bother ordering a dessert.
As noted above, Decoy is as popular as ever and since the best way to enjoy the restaurant is to bring in a large group (at least six) to share a lot of dishes together, I highly recommend coordinating the reservation way in advance. There is full bar with playful cocktails and a concise wine list with bottles mostly from the U.S. The scene at Decoy can get a little chaotic due to the small size of the dining space and one big communal table in the center that is sometimes not large enough to fit in all the dishes, but that is also part of the appeal of dining at the restaurant. I’m really glad to finally have made it to Decoy, and look forward to visiting again with Jun in the future. I firmly believe getting a stamp of approval from Jun for the Peking duck means that the kitchen is doing it right.
KenScale: 8.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.5/10)
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 529-1/2 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
Telephone: (212) 691-9700