There’s a faux mysteriousness about the project: the website is just a landing page, without so much as a menu, hours of operation, or really anything except a phone number and social media links. It doesn’t take much googling to find out everything you’d want to know about Decoy, so why the deliberate obfuscation?
In many ways, Decoy is just an extension of RedFarm. Call the phone number, and the RedFarm staff answer. Show up for dinner at RedFarm, where they don’t take reservations, and they’re liable to send you downstairs to Decoy’s ample bar, to cool your heels during the epic wait.
Decoy itself takes reservations (I already like this place better), and the menu is different. For $65, a party of two gets a whole Peking Duck, two small plates from a list of 13 choices, and one rice or side dish. Larger parties receive extra courses from the à la carte menu, in addition to the duck.
At Peking Duck House, the uncontested past-masters of similar cuisine, you pay either $31 (in Chinatown) or $37 (in midtown) for a very similar menu. So, what are you getting for double your money?
The extras at Decoy are waaaay better than at Peking Duck House. So is the alcohol program—though of course, you’ll pay extra for that. The barrel-aged Manhattan and the barrel-aged Negroni ($15 each) are both terrific. There’s a long list of house cocktails and a credible beer and wine list, all lacking at Peking Duck House.
Strangely, the duck itself is no improvement. My son, who has been to both, thought the bird was actually a hair better at Peking Duck House. Certainly, Decoy lacks Chinatown’s theatrical presenatation, where they carve your duck in front of you.
Bottom line: if the duck is all you want, it’s at least as good—and perhaps better—at Peking Duck House, and you’ll spend half the money. But Decoy is the nicer restaurant, with a menu (beyond the duck) that is far more worthy of exploring.
The meal begins with a trio of pickled vegetables (above left). Deep-fried fish skins (above right) are like a rich man’s potato chips, hugely addictive.
We loved the Foie Gras and Strawberry Tarts (above left), each complete with its own little toothpick shaped like a duck’s head. Grilled Wagyu Beef (above right) was only so-so; and we found the clump of kimchi on the side totally unnecessary.
The duck, as I’ve said, was just fine, but didn’t make me forget the better specimens I’ve had at Peking Duck House. It comes with three sauces and a hearty duck consommé served in shot glasses.
We paid a $6 supplement for crab & scallop fried rice (above left). Next time, I wouldn’t bother, as we tasted little of either crustacean. Chocolate pudding (above right) was a rather meager portion for $10. But even with a couple of duds figured into the mix, the “non-duck” menu here is quite a bit better than Peking Duck House.
On a Saturday evening, on a few days’ notice, we were offered reservations at either 5:45 or 9:15 (we took the former), but the space was never completely full during our visit. Most of the seating is at a long communal table. There’s one two-top, a few counter seats, and a long bar, where (I gather) food is served without reservations, although I believe you need to reserve to get a duck.
The space is resolutely casual, but we found the service attentive and professional. As the duck is no better than Peking Duck House, and may even be slightly worse, whether Decoy is for you is mainly about atmosphere.
Decoy (529½ Hudson Street, West Village)
Food: Peking Duck and modern riffs on Chinese standards
Service: Casual, but attentive and professional
Atmosphere: A dark room decorated in duck motifs, with a long communal table