2 Duck Goose
400 4th Avenue, Gowanus
Fourth Avenue, as it runs through Park Slope and Gowanus, isn’t known for its bustling restaurant scene—rather, this stretch of new housing developments is criticized for its lack thereof. That’s why 2 Duck Goose, located on the corner of Fourth Avenue and 6th Street, is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Chinese takeout this is not: 2 Duck Goose specializes in “Classic Cantonese with a twist,” according to its website. It’s the brainchild of Kay Ch’ien and chef Ben Pope, who both grew up in Hong Kong and missed the food from their youth. The goal was to bring NYC a better option for Cantonese cuisine. They definitely succeeded in unexpected flavor combinations, modern additions to old-school Cantonese, and generally a fun meal to be had.
The restaurant interior is sparsely and modernly decorated, almost echoing those shiny glass developments that loom outside. Dinner starts with a small dish of candied walnuts, salty, sweet, and crunchy in all the right ways. The menu offers two dinner specials—a roast duck feast, offered to parties of 4 to 5 for $120, and “char siu” roast pork served three different ways. Regular entrées include paper bag fish, Cantonese borscht stew, and stir-fried smoked tofu. There’s also a selection of “bites and apps,” from which I selected a dish of silken tofu. “Silken” is the right word, as the tofu gracefully falls apart as you tear at it with chopsticks; it sits in a soy sauce broth with hints of fish and ginger. The plate was massive for an appetizer, and my dining companion and I barely made a dent before the entrées came out.
Don’t leave 2 Duck Goose without trying one of the “char siu” roast pork dishes. The chef takes a seasonal, modern, and classic take on the dish. The seasonal dish includes rotating ingredients and the modern dish incorporates apple, a beet and ginger purée, and pickled fennel. The modern dish, with crispy slices of pork in a brilliantly bright pink purée, is phenomenal. The fresh, sweet beet purée uniquely compliments the fattiness of the pork; I could not get enough. Another highlight was the paper bag fish, a branzino that, yes, is served in a paper bag. Tearing open the bag to find a steaming fish, tomatoes, and mushrooms felt like a foodie’s Christmas. The duck fried rice fell a little flat after those two bold dishes; it is served traditionally with carrots, peas, eggs, and scallions. The next day, it tasted like a classic Chinese leftover dish.
The meal ended with a small bowl of black sticky rice pudding. The black rice was thick with coconut milk and accompanied by toasted sesame seeds and coconut flakes. This final dish seemed to summarize the meal—traditional elements done well, with enough creative notes to leave you surprised, satisfied, and eager for more.