When Bamboo House arrived in Plano early May, the wait to get a taste of the Szechuan restaurant was an hour and a half. Customers gathered for bowls of hand-pulled noodles, plates of spicy peppercorn chicken, and the restaurant’s coveted Peking duck.
Peking duck is an iconic dish that originates in Beijing. In addition to sliced juicy duck meat and crispy skin, the dish includes thin pancakes, hoisin sauce, and julienned scallions and cucumbers. The dish is deeply rooted in Chinese cuisine, and it’s not often that a restaurant can get it right. Enter: Bamboo House.
The restaurant’s Plano location is the most recent addition to the Humble-based chain, which touts that it has the best Peking duck in town. A Houston location opened in 2019 but closed in 2020, and an Austin location opened in 2022. The restaurant specializes in numbing Szechuan cuisine, but its show-stopping and most popular item is the Peking duck.
At a recent lunch, my table of three picked through Bamboo House’s colossal menu: half Peking duck—which comes with soup made with leftover bones—pea sprouts sautéed with garlic, cold steamed chicken with chile sauce, stinky tofu, and salt and pepper fish.
The food comes quickly and steaming. The duck is presented on a bamboo tray with a metal steamer basket of pancakes, two dishes of tiny brown sugar and plum sauce, a plate with hoisin, cucumbers, and scallions, and a duck-shaped dish upon which sits deliciously crisp roast duck. The half-order of Peking duck comes with 10 thin pancakes, while a whole order comes with 20. Extra pancakes can be ordered at $6.95 for 10. Ten was plenty for each of us to get a taste.
Assembling the wrapped duck is a ritual: place a pancake in your hand and coat the center with hoisin sauce. Place some scallions and cucumbers on top, and then add the duck. If you want to, drizzle some sugar or add a spoonful of plum sauce.
Peking duck is technically a roasted duck, but it’s not to be confused with Cantonese roast duck. The latter is stuffed with star anise, ginger, spring onion, and other herbs and spices. Peking duck isn’t. The cooking technique differs, too. The traditional way of cooking Peking duck involves pumping air in between the skin and meat so the skin stays crisp while it cooks in an oven. Cantonese roast ducks are boiled to keep the skin tight. (It’s probably best explained here.) Their taste and aromas are different.
If you can get a bite with all of the sweet, tangy, and savory parts in it, you’ll realize why Bamboo House offers one of the most textbook Peking ducks in North Texas. The dish is a texture rollercoaster, and it’s hard to stop at just one or two wraps. The skin was a bit too greasy for me, but it still delivered a satisfying crunch.
The other dishes were just as good. The accompanying soup had winter melon, duck bones, and meat in a basic broth. The stinky tofu was fried and drenched in a drippy Szechuan pepper sauce. The steamed chicken—served cold—was one of my favorites. It was sliced and bathed in a red-hot chile sauce and was dusted with scallions and peanuts.
Before it closed in 2019 due to a fire, one of my favorite places for Peking duck in North Texas was Mr. Wok Asian Bistro in Plano. You had to call a few days in advance to reserve your duck because the cooking process took several days. When you finally got to sit down and eat, a staff member would carve the entire duck tableside and plate it in front of you. I loved the splendor.
But I have a feeling Bamboo House won’t need a show like that to attract its own loyal diners.
Bamboo House, 2301 N. Central Expy. Ste. 195., Plano.