A Duck with Something Extra

If it looks like a duck, look inside. At Uncle Zhou, you could be in for a splendid surprise. This recent Chowhound find in Queens has just rolled out a banquet tour de force called Four Treasures—a shrimp-and-rice-stuffed quail inside a squab inside a chicken inside a duck—and scoopG isn't mincing words. "Everyone should have this dish at least once in your life," he declares.

The "quailsquaducken," as scoop dubs it, takes two days to prepare. It starts with live birds slaughtered to order—but only past a certain age, says Joe MacBu, which lends their meat a denser, chewier texture and a more robust flavor (some would say gaminess) compared with your everyday supermarket roaster. Once assembled, the dish steams for six hours in stock lightly seasoned with ginger, onion, and rice wine. The result, hounds say, is magnificent. "The broth is incredibly flavorful, as is the flesh," Joe reports, and the flavor's all about the poultry, with a bright note contributed by the wine and aromatics. Befitting a special-occasion dish christened "treasure," this one's priced at $225, but scoop (only half kidding, we think) promises that it "will easily feed 24 as part of a balanced diet."

It's easier than ever to balance your diet at Uncle Zhou, which is rapidly expanding a Henan Chinese menu once dominated by noodles. One of the best new dishes is spicy crispy rabbit in big tray: well-marinated chunks of meat, fried yet moist and juicy, served in a heap of chiles with chopped green onion and cilantro. Smoked fish is meaty and flavorful with a touch of spice at the back end—softer, less sweet, and way better than any version swannee's had at Shanghai restaurants. Pickled cucumber, sliced thin and served cold, is sweet and slightly tart with "a warm spread of heat from the first bite," he adds.

"Every time I return," marvels Joe, "I am more amazed by the skills of the three chefs. ... As the restaurant evolves organically from a noodle-and-dumpling joint to something more, their enthusiasm and talents are really shining through." Just as impressive as the cooking is the welcoming attitude. theeatenpath says a chat with the owner about the fine handmade noodles called mei bian led to an impromptu command performance by two of the cooks, who demonstrated how they're made. The experience, he writes, was "not too different from seeing a breakdancing duo taking turns on the subway car—elegant, entertaining and done with pride."

Uncle Zhou [Elmhurst]
83-29 Broadway (near Dongan Avenue), Elmhurst, Queens

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