It was my Mum’s birthday during their recent visit here, and we headed out to dinner to celebrate. We booked a dinner at Quanjude, a peking duck franchise from Beijing. The first restaurant to bear the name Quanjude was established in 1864, and the one in Melbourne is the first in Australia.
The restaurant itself is (garishly?) decorated in tones of red and gold. We were there early and there seemed to be a lot of staff on board. At one point, we had three staff hovering around our table, which was a bit disconcerting!
Naturally, we had to order a duck ($88 for whole, $45 for half). That came out first, with a chef deftly slicing it up on a trolley next to our table. He sliced off most of the skin first, which was placed on a separate plate (it’s the best part!), and then carved up the rest of the meat.
We were all given our own small plates of spring onions and sauce. Then two steamer baskets of pancakes were placed in the middle of the table.
The pancakes were brilliant – very thin and soft. And the duck? The duck was lovely – the skin was crispy and burnished, and the meat was lean, flavoursome and not too gamey. There was more duck than wraps so we ordered another basket of pancakes.
Mum and Dad ordered the dishes that came after the duck and I must say that they weren’t the kind of food that I would order. Mum and Dad had Chinese menus, while the rest of us received English menus. I’m not sure if the items we ordered were on the English menu. I couldn’t place them, but it could be that the descriptions translated differently.
First up was a pork belly and chestnut dish. The pork had a good flavour – dark and salty, but it could’ve been more tender. The chestnuts were nice though. Eating them reminded me of how much I actually enjoy chestnuts in savoury dishes. I don’t have them enough – apart from when I’m exploding them in the oven.
Next up was spinach in a thin savoury broth, topped with diced salted egg and thousand year (preserved) egg. Thousand year egg can be quite challenging, and I’m not the greatest fan, but when it’s diced in small pieces it’s not too bad.
After that was a tofu dish – fried tofu stuffed with fish/shrimp paste and surrounded by steamed broccoli. Inside the fried exterior the tofu was silky and the fish paste was soft and fresh.
I was pretty full by this stage but there was one last dish – a hot pot of sea cucumber, fish maw and shitake mushrooms. Sea cucumber is desired for the texture and is very gelatinous, plus (I feel) it has a muskiness that goes right up the nostrils. Like sea cucumber, fish maw doesn’t really have much flavour, but it has a VERY fatty mouth feel that I don’t find very pleasant. Since I don’t like sea cucumber or fish maw (and I had pretty much stuffed myself) I didn’t eat any of the last dish.
We then received small bowls of soup made with the bones of the duck.
After such a large dinner, we finished off with a red bean pancake ($10). The fried pastry was filled with a red bean paste. It was crispy and not too oily. Just a little sweet something to finish off the meal.
Overall it was a good meal. Obviously, the highlight was the duck, and though the duck is somewhat pricey it really was very good. I would go again for that duck, preferably with someone else paying!
299 Queen Street
Phone: (03) 9670 0092