It was our 2nd wedding anniversary and since I was off work, I was tasked with choosing a place to dine to celebrate such momentous occasion (I mean, deary me, we must celebrate! It’s not like we have an anniversary every year!)
Being heavily pregnant, I was too tired to basically bother to stick with my original intention of putting together a really lovely meal. And I didn’t really want to book somewhere really expensive and really special because a) I couldn’t eat much and b) I didn’t want to go into labour half way through a, say, Jacques Reymond dinner.
(steamed pancakes for Peking duck)
So Simon’s Peiking Duck Chinese Restaurant it was. It wasn’t far from home and it was more interesting than dumplings. The restaurant was supposed to be newly opened but I made a booking anyway just in case as the Age recently had a write up on them. Simon is, of course, the famous duck nazi (err… not sure why he’s called that, he’s not exactly one but someone has to sell the story) from Old Kingdom in Fitzroy who came out of retirement to open his own restaurant in good old Box Hill.
The place was already almost packed by the time we rocked up at 7pm and as they only took cash, we had to go back out to hunt around the neighbourhood for an ATM. There wasn’t one. But there was an Australia Post outlet at the bottle shop nearby who gave us a withdrawal from our NAB account. Phew!
The menu consisted of your typical suburban Chinese restaurant populars with a slight Malaysian slant but we weren’t there for lemon chicken or hor fun, oh no, we were there for the duck! We ordered the duck course (option 1 – $55) which is exactly what is served at Old Kingdom. Option 2 consisted of additional noodle course (or in place of beansprouts, I’m not too sure) and was slightly more expensive.
Our duck arrived pre-sliced. Golden and glistening. I have always thought that one duck between 2 people is just way too much. This time I was smart enough to just put some aside to take away and not eat myself to death. Yay for common sense. The duck was meaty and succulent but the pancakes were on the dry side and it didn’t diminish the fully fatty, sweet, succulent effect of a Melbourne Peking duck (I still think there should be less meat and more skin on a Peking duck, damnit).
Our second course arrived shortly after. Beansprouts stir fried with duck meat. It was flash fried and captured the essence of the breath of the wok. My only complaint is that it needed a bit more flavouring as it tasted rather bland but still as far as stir fried beansprouts goes, it was nice. Again we set some aside to takeaway.
Our third course was the duck, tofu and preserved cabbage soup. Now this really stood out to me how much better it is than at Old Kingdom. The soup had spicy, gingery warm note to it and made me love it instantly (but then I’m a soup person). It was light, a palate cleanser.
The timing of the courses were done perfectly. We didn’t have to wait too long or were rushed. We couldn’t really get much of the attention of the server otherwise though. But the restaurant was new and the service forgivable. It was clear that the restaurant thrived on Simon’s presence. He chatted easily with all the diners and I think it was what sold the restaurant and kept the regulars (I’m sure he already has them).
So the golden question is: is it better than Old Kingdom? I think so. There are some more care put into the food even thought the Peking duck menu is exactly the same. But then this recipe of duck pancakes, beansprouts and soup does get a bit boring to me. But why mess with the classics?