I’m not sure I’ve ever had a duck sandwich before. Turducken yes, straight-up duck no.
The sandwich: Chubby Chinese Girl from Certe, 55th between 5th and 6th in Manhattan.
The construction: Chunks of duck on a toasted baguette with cilantro, strips of cucumber and carrot, pickled radishes, lettuce, chili sauce and hoison sauce.
Important background information: Certe is very close to my office and offers a large variety of tasty-looking sandwiches, including monthly and daily specials. I had never found it until I Googled “best sandwich in Midtown Manhattan” on a whim earlier this week. The Chubby Chinese Girl is only available on Thursdays.
Certe’s menu boasts, “We don’t just sell food. We sell certainty.” If only! What I wouldn’t pay for certainty in this capricious world.
What it looks like:
How it tastes: Tasty. It tastes primarily like the mix of hoison and chili sauces, but it so happens that’s a nice blend of sweetness and spiciness with flavors that go together well. And the vegetables, including the pickled radish, give it some of the flavors and textures of a typical banh mi.
The duck is a tiny bit disappointing. I got the sandwich because I was intrigued by the idea of a sandwich with duck meat. At its best, duck can be more moist, more flavorful and more fatty than more common poultry, and outside of its price it seems ripe for sandwiching. What is Peking duck but a Far Eastern cousin of the sandwich (or the soft taco) — when right, delicious duck with sweet sauce wrapped in a starch. But here, the duck was a little dry and chewy. It worked fine as a meat to add muscle to the sandwich, but it didn’t bring anything particularly special to the item.
The baguette, toasted, was pretty hearty and very crusty, the type of bread I’d certainly love under butter. But it was sort of a chore to chew, so combined with the duck it made eating this sandwich a good workout for the jaw.
Again: Still a very good sandwich. These quibbles come from the distinction between my sky-high hopes and the only building-high reality of the thing.
What it’s worth: The Chubby Chinese Girl costs $8.95, pretty much the baseline rate for any non-street-meat lunch in Midtown. I’ve paid well more for way worse sandwiches in the neighborhood.
How it rates: 70 out of 100.