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At DaDong in Midtown, Modern Art and Lame Duck

来源:纽约时报    2018-03-07 09:36:23

        Every so often, I’ll wake up to an inbox full of friendly emails from people volunteering to help me do my job. The specific assistance they are offering is to meet me at some forthcoming restaurant, their stomachs empty and ready to contain at least half the menu. When I get three or four of these volunteers on the same morning, it invariably means that while I was sleeping other people were reading the advance press on an incipient opening that sounds both unusually enticing and intimidatingly expensive.        隔三差五我就会一大早看到许多人的友好来信,自告奋勇要帮我完成我的工作。他们所提供的具体帮助是和我在某个预定的餐馆见面,空着肚子,做好了吃下半本菜单的准备。当我在某个早上看到了三四名志愿者,这一定表示在我睡觉的时候有人读了某篇提前报道,其中提到了某个听起来既出奇地诱人却又贵得令人发指的新开业餐馆。
        The most recent rush of volunteers, it turned out, was inspired by the arrival in December of a Manhattan branch of the Beijing-based restaurant DaDong. While the Beijingese have excelled at the art of duck roasting for centuries, DaDong, I learned, is a relative newcomer, founded in the 1990s by the chef Dong Zhenxiang.        最近一批涌来的志愿者,原来是被北京餐馆“大董”12月在曼哈顿开的分店引来的。北京人已经精研烤鸭艺术数个世纪,但我了解到,大董相对来说是个后来者,于1990年由厨师董振祥创立。
        At the restaurants — there are 10 in Beijing and six in other Chinese cities, not counting casual spinoffs — the birds revolve, a dozen at a time, inside a circular wood-fueled oven that Mr. Dong has patented. The result is what some people consider Beijing’s best Peking duck. This is a magical combination of words. “Beijing’s best Peking duck” suggests a mandatory eating experience in a way that, say, “Russia’s best Russian dressing” does not.        不算上衍生餐馆,大董在北京开了10家店,在中国其他城市开了6家。在这些餐馆里,鸭子在董振祥申请了专利的圆形烧柴烤炉内旋转着,一次12只。这样烤出来的是一些人认为北京最好的北京烤鸭。这样的词汇组合真神奇。“北京最好的北京烤鸭”给人一种不同于“俄罗斯最好的俄式沙拉酱”的美食体验保证。
        It took me and my first corps of volunteers some time to find one another because the restaurant’s address, 3 Bryant Park, implied that the entrance would be somewhere around Bryant Park. DaDong is inside a stack of glass-and-steel blocks that has somehow been plunked down west of the park between 42nd and 41st Streets, beside a pocket plaza that was new to me, although the skateboarders seemed to know all about it.        我和我的第一支志愿者军团的会合费了点周折,因为餐馆的地址“3 Bryant Park”(布莱恩特公园3号)表示入口会在布莱恩特公园的周围某处。大董所在的那堆玻璃钢铁大楼,却不知怎地跑到了公园西边42街和41街之间,与一个我没去过的迷你广场相毗邻,但那些玩滑板的人似乎什么都知道。
        Inside the front door was a lobby where a host stood by herself behind a desk made out of a rock. I gave her the name and she gestured toward the elevators, sending me up to the dining room on the second floor. This space, designed by the hotel specialist George Wong, is the latest manifestation of modern China in Manhattan, a soothing study in straight lines and neutral tones with random outbreaks of contemporary Chinese art. A wraparound bar sits in the middle of the room under a hanging sculpture that looks like a flock of gold paper-towel tubes learning to fly.        进门是一个大堂,有一位迎宾员在一张石头做的桌子后面站着。我向她报了名字,她示意我走进电梯,把我送上了二楼的餐厅。这个由专业酒店设计师乔治·黄(George Wong)设计的空间是现代中国在曼哈顿的最新体现,有着舒缓的直线线条和中间色调,时而掺杂进中国当代艺术作品。房间的中央是一个包围型吧台,上方悬挂着一件雕塑,看上去像一群在学习飞行的金色纸筒卷芯。
        In this room, it is not exactly shocking to learn that the usual Peking duck garnishes may be supplemented with 10 grams of caviar for $42. In lieu of toast points, servers recommend a shard of skin. If you skip the fish eggs, they will tell you there are three ways to eat the duck: wrapped in one of the very thin and tender pancakes with scallions and a smear of sweet soy-black bean sauce (great stuff); poked into a round sesame puff with julienned cucumber and melon, raw garlic paste and the black bean sauce; and finally, dipped in a small pile of sugar, recommended for the skin alone.        在这个空间里,得知北京烤鸭一般可以用42美元10克的鱼子酱来搭配并不令人惊讶。作为三角吐司的替代,侍者推荐了一片鸭皮。如果你不要鱼子,他们会告诉你烤鸭的三种吃法:配着大葱,蘸一点甜面酱(超棒的东西),用一张非常薄而柔软的面皮卷着吃;搭配着切成了丝的黄瓜、甜瓜和蒜泥、甜面酱一起塞进圆形的芝麻烧饼里吃;最后一种,是沾一小搓白糖,建议在光吃鸭皮时这么吃。
        This kept everybody busy for some time. The bird was precisely carved, as if by a laser. None of us had seen crisper skin — you could bounce a quarter off it. The dip didn’t improve it, but it is always nice to find a new use for sugar.        这让大家忙活了好一阵。片鸭子的刀功精准,仿佛是用激光切的。我们都没有见过比这更脆的鸭皮——往上扔一个硬币都能弹起来。蘸糖并没有太大帮助,但能发现糖的新用法总是件好事。
        The meat didn’t make as firm an impression. It made very little impression at all, apart from my strong sense that there ought to have been more of it. Tasted on its own, it reminded me a bit of the lean, whitish, noncommittal supermarket pork chops I grew up on. Slowly, gradually, with great mental resistance but still inexorably, it dawned on me that I had paid $98 for a duck with almost no flavor.        鸭肉没给我留下深刻印象。实际上,它几乎没给我留下任何印象,我只是强烈感觉分量太小了。至于它本身的味道,让我想起小时候吃的那种偏瘦、发白、说不上什么味道的超市猪排。慢慢地、渐渐地,虽然在精神上强烈抗拒,但我依然不可避免地想到,我花了98美元,买了一只几乎没有任何味道的鸭子。
        It was dry, too.        而且它很干。
        New York City being a lush jungle of regulations, DaDong was forced to convert its wood-burning ovens to gas. Smoke might have added some flavor, but something seems to be lacking in the birds themselves, members of the Pekin breed raised on a farm in Indiana with special instructions to keep them lean, the way Mr. Dong prefers them.        纽约市有着各种各样的规定,大董也被迫将碳烧烤炉换成了天然气烤炉。烟熏也许可以给它增加一点味道,但鸭子本身似乎也缺了点什么,它们是在印第安纳州一个农场饲养的北京鸭,按照特殊的指示养得不太肥,那是大董偏爱的类型。
        Unfortunately, DaDong’s problems don’t end with the duck. The menu in New York has been trimmed down considerably from the 280-page book presented to diners in Beijing, but it is still rife with dishes that are dead on arrival.        不幸的是,大董的问题不仅在于鸭子。与北京280页的菜单相比,纽约的菜单已大幅削减,但依然充斥着一来到美国便已遭到失败的菜肴。
        Kung pao shrimp with beet coins and raw mushrooms tasted like ketchup. Sweet-and-sour pork ribs with preserved plums were as sweet as if they’d been stewed in Dr Pepper, and a dusting of powdered sugar at the table didn’t help.        含有甜菜茎块和鲜蘑的宫保虾球尝起来像番茄酱。梅渍糖醋排骨就像在胡椒博士软饮里炖过一样甜,上桌时撒上糖粉也没有帮助。
        Little teepees of Ibérico ham came wrapped around cold, dry wads of sticky rice. Champagne-glazed tomatoes were sweet enough to serve for dessert, and the “crispy mushroom salad” they were stuffed with wasn’t crisp and didn’t particularly taste like mushrooms.        圆锥形的小块伊比利亚火腿用又冷又干的糯米包裹着。发出香槟光泽的番茄甜到可以用来做甜点,番茄里面塞的“脆蘑菇沙拉”一点也不脆,吃起来也不像蘑菇。
        Shiny and red as candied apples, the tomatoes were at least pretty to look at. Nearly everything I ate at DaDong was. The kitchen, led by Andy Xu, a veteran of Atlantic Grill and Blue Fin, certainly shows attention to the details of presentation. Occasionally, it sends out something that lives up to its appearance.        番茄像糖渍苹果一样闪亮鲜红,至少看起来很美。我在大董吃的一切几乎都是看起来很美。厨房由安迪·许(Andy Xu)领导,他曾是Atlantic Grill餐厅和Blue Fin餐厅的资深大厨,无疑展现出对卖相细节的关注。这个厨房偶尔也能送上并非徒有其表的食物。
        A perfectly clear globe of ice, to be cracked with a spoon, kept soy-marinated ribbons of geoduck deliciously cold. Braised sea cucumber in a glossy soy-based sauce hit all the right sticky and soft marks.        用勺子敲开一个完全透明的冰球,里面盛放着用酱油腌制的象牙蚌丝,冰爽可口。海参煨在亮泽的酱油汤汁里,粘腻柔软,恰到好处。
        My favorite dish may be the seafood variation on the Sichuan classic Chongqing chicken called Hot and Spicy Lobster: a cut-up lobster stir-fried with nearly enough dried chiles to fill a pillowcase. A close second is the baby cabbage, sliced into threads and braised with chestnuts in saffron sauce.        我最喜欢的菜可能是经典川菜重庆辣子鸡的海鲜版——香辣龙虾:用足以填满一个枕头套的干辣椒爆炒切碎的龙虾肉。紧随其后、排名第二的是娃娃菜:它是用切成细丝的娃娃菜加入藏红花汁,和栗子一起炖制出来的。
        Whatever is causing the kitchen’s reach-grasp ratio to break down doesn’t seem to have affected the desserts. There is a fine plate of Beijing snacks, dense little half-sweet cakes made of lotus root, red beans, yellow split peas and so on. I enjoyed popping tiny seashells of white chocolate into my mouth to find out what each was filled with: Nutmeg? Tangerine? Wasabi? The simplest, though, the ice cream with an alluringly bitter edge of dried tangerine peel, was also the most rewarding.        不管导致厨房失败比例奇高的原因是什么,它似乎并没有影响到甜点的水准。有一盘精美的北京小吃,是用莲藕、红豆和黄豌豆等做成的微甜小蛋糕。我喜欢把用白巧克力做成的小贝壳丢进嘴里,品出每个贝壳里面藏的是什么:肉豆蔻?柑橘?芥末?带有陈皮迷人苦味的冰激凌是最朴实的一道甜品,不过也是最值得回味的。
        Servers sometimes seemed to be reading dish descriptions from a teleprompter, but they made up for that with a care and attentiveness that felt unforced. The sommeliers were particularly good at interpreting the wine list, which is well-rounded and can be quite reasonable. This list would get your attention almost anywhere, but in a Chinese restaurant in New York, it’s a treasure.        服务员有时似乎是在照着提词器念菜肴描述,但他们对顾客的关心自然亲切,弥补了这个不足。侍酒师特别擅长解读酒单,酒水品种很全,设计合理。这样的酒单几乎在任何一个地方都会引起你的注意,但在纽约的一家中餐馆里,它就显得更加难得。
        But even the most gently priced bottle can go only so far to smooth over the potholes on the menu, and the suspicion that the best Peking duck in Beijing has turned into something that would struggle to stand out in Parsippany.        但即便是定价最合理的酒水,也只能有限地弥补菜单上的缺陷以及顾客的怀疑,那就是,北京最好的烤鸭已经变成了某种想在帕西帕尼脱颖而出都很难的东西。

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