Archive for the ‘Chinese’ Category
Simon’s Peiking Duck Chinese Restaurant
197b Middleborough Road
Box Hill South
Although there is an extensive menu at Simon’s Peiking Duck restaurant – patrons come for one thing.
The duck banquet.
The Peking duck banquet consists of a whole roast duck – which, as described on the website is prepared
“at least a day in advance. First air is pumped into the duck body to stretch and loosen the skin, then boiled after is repeatedly spread over the duck, before carefully drying the duck. The duck is then roasted in a hot oven for a period of time until the meat is becomes tender and the skin crispy.”
We dined on a Monday night, and a full restaurant was emptying out and turning around for another full second sitting. No surprise, given he was recently reviewed in The Age’s Epicure, and the word was spreading around Melbourne that Simon Lay – the famed Peking Duck Nazi, was back. Simon had set up and made Old Kingdom an institution but sold it three years ago and whilst they kept the Peking duck banquet, it had gone steadily downhill, as reviewed earlier.
Much like the system at Old Kingdom, when I called to make the booking, Simon barked the questions
“How many people”
“6 o’clock or 8 o’clock?”
Can I have 7 o’clock?
“No. Two seatings. 6 o’clock or 8 o’clock”
Ok.. 8 please.
“How many duck?”
umm.. how many do I need?
“For 8 people.. usually… around 3. <chuckle> Though some like to have 4.”
This duck is served in a three part banquet –
The first course with the peking duck skin, served with 15 pieces of home made pancakes, spring onion, cucumbers and a special plum-hoison sauce.
The second course takes the duck meat, which stirfried with either bean-shoots or noodles. Without noodles, the banquet is $55 per duck, with noodles, the banquet is $63 per duck. You can have the choice of hand-made noodles, rice noodles, egg noodles, or hor fun noodles.
The third and final course uses the duck bones to make a soup with bean curd.
I had ordered three ducks, to the dismay of my friends, who insisted we needed at least one duck for two.
I sighed, and said I would ask Simon if there was extra duck, my friends were convinced they had to make spare ducks.
He chuckled, and said “only if you smile at me”.
What a charmer. I gave him my biggest smile so my friends wouldn’t bitch (even though I did ask them several times how many duck and no one said anything until we got there!!) and four duck it was.
I asked if this was too many, and Simon laughed and said “The table before you, four people three duck.”
Before our duck began to arrive, we could see ducks being carved around the restaurant, and devoured by each and every table. There were a few token other dishes, but everyone was here for the duck.
Our duck came, its skin glistening..
Simon himself carved our first duck, expertly and deftly cutting slices of skin, finishing the duck in a matter of minutes.. a real joy to watch.
The slices were piled high onto a plate and presented to our table..
A plate of 15 pancakes were presented, as well as 15 lengths of cucumber and 15 slices of spring onion.
Simon began by throwing some pancakes at our plates (which he missed, but was close!), and began by assembling my wrap –
“Spring onion, cucuumber at quarter past three! Duck, then sauce, now fold! “Six o’clock, Nine o’clock, three o’clock!”
resulting in a perfectly wrapped Peking duck wrap. The pancakes were delicately thin, yet surprisingly springy being able to hold the contents without tearing. These are the best duck wraps I’ve ever had. We eagerly bit into our wraps, which made a wonderful ‘crunch’ as our teeth bit through the crispy skin, releasing the juices and oiliness.
Simon, the King, is back.
We devoured the skins of our four ducks, they were just simply amazing.
For the stirfry – Simon suggested we do two with vegies, and two with noodles. He suggested we get the crispy noodles – which served Canton style which was deep fried noodles, shiitake mushrooms and gravy.
I preferred the noodles, but my friends preferred the stir fry, but they were both delicious, and despite the fact that we were stuffed, we managed to finish these.
Simon also suggested we order a vegetable and he said he’d bring us something we’ve never tried before.
Out came a mixture of asparagus, eggplant, okra stir fried in a spicy shrimp paste.
And indeed, I had never had this before, and I found it really yummy as I love asparagus, eggplant, okra and chilli. 🙂
To finish, the soup arrived, with thick chunks of soft tofu.
We all went home, stuffed, happy and pretty tipsy. Corkage is only $2/head. Bargain.
The night was perfect. The duck was amazing, and Simon was good fun throughout the night, coming around and joking with us all night. He even drank some wine with us, which he drank out of his tea-cup.
The only downfall of this place is its location – there isn’t really any form of public transport, which can be a problem if you consume too much Pinot with your duck.
Taste: 9. Best Peking Duck I’ve had. Stirfry and noodle were amazing, soup was ok. I’d be interested to try the other dishes, though that takes away stomach room for the ducks.
Value: 9.5. Great value, we were completely stuffed, and corkage is an absolute steal for only $2.
Service: 10. Simon is such a charmer. We all love Simon.
Overall: 9.5. Amazing experience, we all loved it.
The king is back.
197 Smith St, Fitzroy 3065
Ph: 9417 2438
Tue-Fri noon-2.30pm, 5pm-10.30pm
Sat-Sun 5pm-11.30pm. (Dinner seatings at 6pm and 8pm only)
“Hi I’d like to make a booking for Saturday night.”
“6pm or 8pm” barks the answer on the phone.
“How many people.”
“How many duck.”
Everyone that is familiar with Old Kingdom will be familiar with this ritual; You ring, you order the amount of duck. A good rule of thumb is one duck for two-three people, depending on how much duck you can handle.
Located in the middle of Smith Street, this place has become an institution for peking duck.
Prior visits, we have ordered other things on the menu, but we have since learnt that despite the large menu, there is no point. Everything else is average at best. We, as most other people in the restaurant just opted for the duck banquet.
The duck banquet consists of a three course meal for $55.
The first course, the whole duck (minus the head) is brought out and presented to you, glistening in all it’s glory.
The duck man holds the duck in one hand, and in the other a cleaver to carve the shiny duck skin for you.
These pieces are then rolled in a thin pancake, with some pickled cucumber and radish and rolled in hoisin duck sauce.
The rest of the meat is cooked in a stir-fry with spring onions and bean shoots.
And the bones are used for a soup with tofu and vegetables.
*Looks* amazing right? Unfortunately, Old Kingdom has changed ownership in the past couple of years and it is not what it used to be. The duck skin is not delicately crispy as it used to be, rather it is just hard and seems fried rather than roasted. The stir-fry is overly oily, and the soup had a hint of ‘dirty-dish-water’ flavoured with MSG. The famous ‘duck-nazi’ is gone, who used to dictate and tell you how to roll your peking duck pancakes, and the kid that carved our duck for us did it quickly and robotically.
Taste: 4. Such a let-down. A lot to live up to as past visits had always been nothing short of delicious.
Value: 4. Peking duck is notoriously expensive, this however was a poor example of it. Each additional pancake is $2. As if.
Service: 4. They just didn’t care.
Atmosphere: 4. The restaurant was cold. The most fun thing about this place is that everyone else is eating the Peking Duck.
Overall: 4. So disappointing, as prior visits had always left me full and satisfied, and I had always claimed that Old Kingdom was the best peking duck place in Melbourne for excellent value. the only saving grace is that corkage is still $2 a head, so our dining party at least were able to enjoy some nice Pinot Noir with our duck.
Such a let down – left me craving Peking Duck more, as it did not fulfill my Peking Duck cravings. So, leaves me with the question – Where is the best Peking Duck in Melbourne?
Shop 6003, Highpoint Shopping Centre
200 Rosamond Rd, Maribyrnong
(03) 9318 6833
Yum Cha; Mon-Fri 12 noon – 3pm, Sat-Sun 11am-3pm
Located within the busy Knifepoint Highpoint Shopping Complex, Plume has been serving yum cha for many years, and appears to be doing fairly steady trade (though nowhere near as busy as they used to be when we first started going). The family go on a regular basis, but mostly due to its proximity to our grandpa rather than because of the quality or value (which are lacking, or certainly have diminished over the years).
Here are some of the dishes we had;
In order; sticky rice, sesame fried prawns, fried white bait, fried squid tentacles, shark fin dumplings, prawn stuffed tofu, sui mai (pork and prawn dumplings), har gow (prawn dumplings), tripe, har cheung (rice paper roll stuffed with prawns), jar leung (rice paper roll stuffed with fried chinese dough stick, also with vegetables), and gai lan.
The sticky rice was pretty good, as were the fried sesame prawns. The whitebait was ok, but cold by the time we got them, the squid was ok but a little rubbery and oily. The pastry on the shark fin dumplings were too thick and dried, the fillings were so-so. I really enjoyed the silken tofu stuffed with prawn meat, the only downfall to this dish is it says that despite us Chinese people having successfully used chopsticks for eons, maybe it’s time to let go. The silky soft tofu is very difficult to pick up, and a spoon would have been lovely at the time.
The sui mai and har gow, which are two of my favourite yum cha dishes were disappointing. I judge a yum cha restaurant on their ability to produce these two stalwart (and essential) dishes. The sui mai flavour was not quite there, whereas the har gow pastry was too thick and the flavouring on the prawn only just average. So, big fail in my books.
The tripe was pretty tasty, however was chewy from overcooking, the har cheung was tasty covered in the sweet soy sauce that I love, though took far too long to come. The dough stick wrapped in rice paper is another one of my favourite yum cha dishes and was again a disappointment. This dish is cooked to order (i.e. not available on the carts which roll past), yet it somehow managed to be luke-warm at best by the time it came to our table. This dish is usually served with a peanut sauce and a sticky hoisin sauce, however just came with soy. Though, this dish is not one that is offered at most yum cha’s so I guess points to Plume for having it on their menu despite not doing it well.
I’m not sure how much each costs as when dining with the family it’s always a massive battle to pick up the bill. So much so, we have (and still have) a family feud over who was to pick up a bill (I shit you not!). I do know that Plume’s yum cha is priced on the higher side of normal despite their food being on the lesser side of average.
So it’s no surprise that the following of Plume seems to be dwindling. Years ago, we used to have to fight for a table only to be turned away. Now, and we dined on Chinese New Year, we waltz straight in and there are empty tables. It appears that most in the west are shifting to the much better Gold Leaf in Sunshine.
One gripe I have about yum cha in Australia is the carts. Whilst I love being able to see my food before I eat it, I much prefer the yum cha in Hong Kong; where dishes are made to order. You get a sheet of paper, and tick the dishes you want, which are steamed or fried fresh to order. I hate the fried yum cha food here in Australia, as it is often cold by the time it arrives to your table.
I dream of the days of yum cha a la carte in Melbourne. What ever happened to Duck Duck Goose, which was rumoured to be serving yum cha a la carte? Still waiting…
Taste: 5/10. It’s ok. It’s doable. Just not great.
Authenticity: 5/10. Well, all the correct dishes were served. Just not served great. What’s authentic? Authentic for Melbourne yum cha? or for Yum cha in Asia? Because correct me if I’m wrong, there isn’t anyone that does yum cha a la carte in Melbourne. So, if little Cantonese women bashing their carts into your chairs yelling out the dishes they have on offer in said cart whilst trying to offload dishes onto your table, and young waiters ignoring you whilst you desperately try to get their attention for more tea is your idea of yum cha in Melbourne, then Plume is authentic as can be.
Value: 4/10. Expensive for average yum cha.
Ambiance: 5/10. Busy.
Service: 4/10. Chinese people are not about the service.
Overall: 5/10. Average. Only if you’re in the area and can’t get into anywhere else.
209-211 Russell Street, Melbourne CBD
(03) 9663 2895
(Alex: This may or may not be related to the Minh Xuong on Victoria Street in Richmond, not confirmed.)
The latest addition to the cheap Asian restaurant/cafes in Chinatown is Minh Xuong, occupying the space vacated by King of Kings (Alex – oh King of Kings, I will miss you… somehow). Located on Russell Street, between Little Bourke and Lonsdale, Minh Xuong opened around Chinese New Year this year, and has been doing fairly steady trade since.
We visited the place late on Chinese New Year’s day after my insistence that I had to eat Chinese food on Chinese New Year or I wasn’t a good little Chinese girl, especially after being rejected by the North East China Family the night before (Alex – to be fair, we did interrupt their reunion dinner). We were drawn to Minh Xuong, tempted by the glistening skins of the roast meats which were hanging in the windows.
On the menu are a variety noodle and rice dishes, stir fries, congees, claypots, Chinese ‘snacks’, soups, and of course, the Roast Meats.
We are pointed towards the Roast meats by the friendly Chinese waitress; MS went for the roast duck
which was pretty decent considering we were dining at midnight on a Sunday night. The skin was nicely crisp, the meat pretty tender, with a thin, but not excessive layer of fat separating the two. The sauce was decent, not the best in Melbourne, but certainly very tasty.
MS wouldn’t let me order the char kuay teow because apparently only Malaysians are allowed to make this dish (Alex – I’m just sayin, I don’t trust HK/Canto places with CKT!) , so I went for the mapo tofu (stir fried tofu with preserved vegetables in a chili bean sauce with pork mince)
As you can see from the above picture; deliiiicious!! I looooooove mapo tofu and have been surprised how difficult it is to find a decent mapo in the Melbourne CBD. Delicious, silky and relatively large pillows of tofu were cooked with pork in a tasty spicy sauce. I was impressed that slices of pork were used, rather than just cheap mince. It had a nice fiery kick to it. I love my spicy food and did not even have to add any chili to it as it had the perfect heat. I finished this dish despite the size, yet I could have gone more because it was so tasty!
Taste: 8/10. The duck was ok, but I loooved the mapo tofu. I do love that dish, so I may seem biased, but this is definately one of the better mapo’s I have.
Authenticity: 8.5/10. I’m Chinese and I think this is pretty Chinese.
Value: 8/10. I can’t remember how much each dish was, but the overall bill came to less than $20. Great value. dishes well sized and well priced. Quality, reasonably fresh ingredients.
Service: 8/10. Our waitress wasn’t overly knowledgable in the menu (or the English language) but she was super friendly. Service with a smile in Asian restaurants is rare, so the smile earns Minh Xuong bonus points :).
Ambience: 7/10. It is what it is. A cheap Asian cafe/restaurant, but is still clean and comfortable.
Overall: 8/10. This may seem high for the sort of place this is, but remember, this place can serve me a decent feed til 2:30am at this price. Service is much better than most Asian joints we go to (at least friendlier) and it’s clean!
The best news is that this place is open 7 days, and does late night trade nightly until 2:30am. I’ll never go hungry again.
Taste: 7/10. I’ve been dishing out a lot of 7s lately.
Authenticity: 9/10. Couldn’t fault what we ate in terms of authenticity to the HK/Canto roast meats tradition and Mapo Tofu.
Service: 8/10. I agree with Jess, the waitress put in the effort and was very pleasant, not something one is used to in Chinese restaurants.
Ambience: 8/10. I judge it on being clean (at time of writing) and not too noisy.
Overall: 7/10. As I say, a lot of 7s.