First Bite: New Houston Restaurant Brings Exquisite Peking Duck to Rice Village

Peking duck at Duck N Bao Rice Village

The husband-and-wife duo of Houston restaurateurs Grace and Leo Xia have debuted their Rice Village location of Duck N Bao, bringing their signature Peking duck and housemade xiao long bao (soup dumplings) to 5215 Kelvin

This new spot joins the Cypress and Memorial locations, which opened in 2020 and 2021, as well as the Bellaire-based, all-you-can-eat Korean buffet Hongdae 33, in the Xias’ growing portfolio of eateries. Houston Food Finder was invited as a media guest to the new Duck N Bao in Rice Village. 

True to its name, the restaurant specializes in duck and bao. Both may very well be some of the best in the city — and that includes both Asiatowns. The duck arrives perfectly sliced so that nearly every thick cut boasts some of the succulently roasted, pleasingly crisp skin. It’s reasonable to want to eat the moist (but not greasy!) meat without the accompanying scallions, duck sauce, cucumbers and pancakes, but you’d be missing out on the quintessential Peking duck experience if you do. Bring some friends along, too!

Peking duck soup. Photo by Meredith Nudo.

The Peking duck comes in a half order for $32 and is served with six pancakes, scallions, cucumbers and duck sauce. A full order costs $58, and comes with all the aforementioned accouterments as well as six additional pancakes and a generous family-style bowl of hearty duck soup. Once winter rolls around, the cabbage-heavy dish will no doubt become part of many Inner Loopers’ comfort food rotation. Lettuce wraps with minced duck meat are available as a substitution for the soup for an extra $5.  

Dining alone? Don’t worry — you’re not doomed to stare at nearby tables crowded with smiling faces tucking in to juicy duck like a Dickensian street urchin at Christmas. Order up some Fresh Handmade Pork or Chicken Soup Dumplings and see exactly why they deserve attention, too. Some xiao long bao spots struggle with structural integrity. They either make the dumpling skins so thin that it falls apart as soon as it’s removed from the steamer, or they skimp on the “soup” part — to the point it may as well not be xiao long bao at all.

Duck N Bao has found the sweet spot between soupy filling and strong (but not tough) wrapper, which may remind long-running Houstonians of the late, great Sarah Place in Bellaire. 

If you feel particularly ravenous, the Chopped Peppers Calamari makes for a decadent appetizer or side dish to the dumplings. Duck N Bao doesn’t skimp on the garlic or the jalapeños, so the tender baby cephalopods come packed with plenty of spicy, savory flavor. 

Chopped peppers calamari. Photo by Meredith Nudo.

When it comes to cocktails, the restaurant is no slouch, either. The Dragon’s Breath Smoked Cocktail gets poured at the table to make the most of the smoke lining the glass. Long after the visual element dissipates, the flavor remains. Made with Ming River Sichuan Baiju, St-Germain, Cointreau, bourbon, simple syrup and orange peel, the drink tastes like liquid incense — and that is not an insult. The nose plays as much of a role in experiencing taste as the tongue, and the Dragon’s Breath makes the most of experimenting with this truism. 

Other excellent options include Mulan, a frothy Maker’s Mark confection made with Great Indian Gin, raspberry liqueur, sweet vermouth, lemon juice and simple syrup, topped with edible flowers, raspberry dust and egg whites. If you prefer dry or bitter flavor profiles, The Paper Crane (Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, Aperol, bourbon, fresh-squeezed lemon and an orange slice) and Qui Pao (Hendrick’s Gin, dry Champagne, elderflower liqueur, agave, fresh squeezed lemon and a lemon twist) are also delicious and creative.

Mulan cocktail. Photo by Meredith Nudo.

The Rice Village Duck N Bao location is open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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