Peking duck is a dish for emperors, a delicacy that Miamians can always eat piping hot at a Chinese restaurant in Doral. Qianlong was founded by Yony Moy, a Venezuelan who learned the business from his father and grandfather, who arrived in Maracaibo from Canton in 1958 searching for success in what was then the richest country in South America.
“The skin has to be crispy and the meat tender,” says Moy, explaining that the process of preparing the duck is long and complex. It begins the night before when the duck is washed and hung; the next day it is baked and smothered in a sauce of plums, cucumber and chives.
At El Palmar, Moy’s father’s restaurant in Caracas, 100 Peking ducks were made a day and customers had to sign up on a list to secure their duck.
With white feathers and orange bill, the five-pound ducks that were eaten in El Palmar were brought from a farm on Long Island and were tasted by Venezuelan presidents and dignitaries visiting the country. Hugo Chávez was the last one they served, in his early years before he emerged as a dictator.
“Do you see all the celebrities we have here,” says Moy, pointing to photos of Venezuelan and Miami artists and figures from U.S. Hispanic television who have visited Qianlong. “My father had the walls of El Palmar full of ministers, ambassadors and presidents.”
As another great luxury, his father could also bring chefs from China, Moy says, indicating that then Venezuela had one of the best cuisines in the world because the strength of the bolivar allowed restaurant owners to bring chefs from other countries.
Prosperity in Miami
El Palmar burned four years ago, and the prosperity of Venezuela only lives in the memory of those who miss its mountains and beaches and repeat that very Venezuelan saying: “We were kings and we didn’t know it,” which Moy now understands.
Like the philosopher who left Greece empty-handed and explained, “All that is mine I carry with me,” Moy brought to Miami the experience, the work ethic and a family that supported his dream of opening a restaurant. He arrived in 2006, and a year later he was inaugurating Qianlong in the shopping center with the blue roof on 25th Street and Northwest 87th Avenue.
They didn’t name it El Palmar, despite the prestige it had gained in Caracas, because the name evokes meat or something tropical, Moy said. After all, it was the name of a steakhouse that his father inherited when he bought it, and that never changed because it was already established.
Moy had the opportunity to start from scratch and chose for his Chinese restaurant the name Qianlong, one of the most beloved Chinese emperors, the one who dared to leave the Forbidden City in disguise to see how the people lived.
“If the food is fresh and the price is affordable, you can’t go wrong,” says Moy, about the secret of his restaurant, which pays tribute to its Chinese roots with a dragon hanging from the ceiling, a symbol of the prosperity he wishes for himself and his clients.
Like his father, Moy also works with Chinese cooks, who keep the flavors authentic. For him “fusion is confusion,” and although he adores arepas, which are his daily breakfast, and other dishes from his country such as pabellón (rice, beans and shredded beef stew), in his restaurant only Chinese food is served.
From time to time a Cuban asks for ripe plantains to combine with fried rice, and Moy explains that he does not have them, and for now he does not intend to add them to the menu, which also features first-class Mongolian beef, prepared with high-quality meat.
“I want everything to come out of the wok,” Moy says of the importance of food being made to order, which is why he never bought a table to keep food warm.
If someone orders fried rice at Qianlong, expect it to come fresh from the kitchen. On weekends, for example, up to 300 rice dishes are cooked in one day.
Ingredients are also brought in fresh by local Chinese vendors, who have their warehouses on Okeechobee Road.
“I buy the shrimp from Ecuador. They cannot come from China, because it takes a long time, and to preserve them, you have to put chemicals on them,” says Moy, a seasoned businessman who speaks three languages, including Cantonese, which he learned before Spanish because his mother, also Chinese, said if he didn’t speak it, he just wouldn’t eat.
Moy had five restaurants in Venezuela, besides El Palmar, which belonged to his father, and he knew well that an important strategy when establishing the one in Miami was to keep the ceilings open and the kitchen in view, so that the customer can observe the cleanliness and the way the kitchen works, he noted.
“You have to treat the public as you want them to treat you, because one day they will be your boss,” Moy concludes with one of the lessons he learned from his family.
Qianlong Chinese Cuisine Restaurant
Where: 8726 NW 25th St. #15, Doral
Info: 305-477-8188 or http://www.qianlongrestaurant.com