Don’t be turned off by this crappy photo. It’s a snap of the leftovers of the smoked duck that I ordered this weekend at Sichuan Pavilion in Rockville. The real presentation at the restaurant was impressive enough — or at least aromatic enough — to entice the buzz-cut gentleman from the next booth over to investigate the dish. He apologized for barging into our meal, took a quick glance at the platter full of duck meat, and pronounced without even sampling it that he would order the beast the next time. He seemed a little disappointed to have to wait.
He should be.
The menu description —”Smoked Duck (Deep Fried and Breaded) $12.95″ — does not do justice to the dish, which, when I think about it, doesn’t even seem particularly Szechwan. The duck meat, steamed and then deep-fried, rests on some shredded lettuces and is sprinkled with individual leaves of bright-green cilantro. Miniature croissant-shaped pieces of sweet rice-dough bread are placed on all sides of the meat; you take the duck and greens and stuff them into the tiny bread pillows, which you then drizzle with hoisin sauce. It’s like making your own dim-sum steam buns right at the table, which strikes me as more Cantonese or Hong Kong-style than Szechwan.
But no matter. Whatever the origin, the flavors and textures of this handheld bite are terrific — sweet, savory, soft, and crunchy. In other words, that “smoked duck” quickly becomes one of the best little sandwiches in the entire D.C. area.
Sichuan Pavilion is located at 410 Hungerford Dr. (240-403-7351) in the former Taste of Saigonspace near Rockville Town Square.