Mark’s Duck House

A frenetic spot for Peking duck and dim sum.

June 2006 Cheap Eats

Eating at this Hong Kong style restaurant is a little like wandering the streets of that chaotic city–a jumble of signs and sensations. From the fish tanks stocked with eels, lobsters, and sea bass to the faded placards taped all over the restaurant announcing house specials in addition to the 400-plus choices on the menu, Mark's can be a bewildering, if fascinating, experience.

And then there are weekends, when the crush of customers waiting for dim sum stretches out the door and the dining room looks to be on the verge of anarchy: carts zipping past, tiny dishes of noodles and dumplings being auctioned off. You don't just eat at Mark's; you submit. And often happily.

The game here is duck. It is prepared in a multitude of ways, almost all of them with care bordering on reverence. Peking duck is carved tableside, the servers tucking the lacquer-skinned meat into thin pancakes and fashioning little bundles of them with their tongs. Honey-roasted duck is a delicious testament to the unity of opposites–the outside crispy, the inside soft and luscious, the sweetness of the honey glaze offset by the ginger and garlic in the pool of soy sauce.

Baby pig–available only on weekends and then usually gone by afternoon–is as good as any of the duck preparations, its thin, burnished skin as crisp as crackling.

Equally rewarding is to take your cue from the tanks out front and order up one of the fresh fish–sauced lightly so as to tease out its natural sweetness. The market prices can push the cost beyond the Cheap Eats boundaries, but an order is often large enough for two to share. Other preparations, like a stir-fry dish of head-on shrimp in a garlic-and-ginger sauce, are satisfying if unspectacular.

Dim sum, served all week, has its moments–atypical offerings like pillowy scallop dumplings and fishcakes wrapped in seaweed are finds–but others in the area do it better. None, though, offers the option of ordering up a plate of roasted duck or pig.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.