"The best part of the duck"
299 Queen St
Melbourne VIC 3000
Quan Jude - Peking Duck specialist since 1864 - is currently having a winter special - $60 for a Peking Duck. Score! After I read reviews here and here, and my dad heard some good recommendations from his friends, we decided to try Quan Jude for my mum's birthday this year.
The Melbourne Quan Jude is located on the corner of LaTrobe and Queen street, (you know, that building with the massive arty picture on it that changes every few months - it used to be a naked lady with bunny ears, now it's a chef). The restaurant floor is one level below the ground floor, and is very open and spacious - a little too spacious, perhaps, which leaves the room feeling a bit cold and empty. The main colour used is yellow, unlike the traditional red we see at most Chinese restaurants. I like it. The mannequin on the stairs wearing a traditional Chinese outfit did freak me out a little, however.
We ordered 2 ducks between the 8 of us (which included, fabulously, my cousin and her daughter who surprised us from Malaysia - yay!), which turned out to be a generous, but not too generous amount. Because the ducks take some time to prepare, our waitress suggested we order some dumplings first - steamed crab for our seafood eaters, and fried pork for our non-seafood eater.
Top: Fried Pork Dumplings
Bottom: Steamed Crab Dumplings
I quite like the steamed crab dumplings, which were fresh and meaty. There were a few little pieces of crab shell in there, but this didn't bother me too much - at least we knew they had real crab! The fried pork was, apparently, "good, but not as good as Best Food Gallery in Box Hill", hehe!
And then came the duck...
The meat was deftly sliced into beautiful, even pieces...
I love the duck plate - it reminds me of the gorgeous Pillivuyt Duck Head Plate my dear friend Lisa bought me.
The "best part of the duck" (i.e. crispy crispy fatty skin) placed on a separate plate to be savoured even more. You get a certificate explaining that this is the 1,000,000th (or whatever) duck that Quan Jude have served - very cool, but we couldn't figure out exactly how they know exactly what order your duck is, when there are more than 50 outlets in China and Japan, as well as here. We guessed that Quan Jude's International Association of Peking Duck (or something like it), just sends out a new batch of cards whenever one of the outlets tells them they've nearly run out.
Cucumber & spring onions on the left, sauce on the right.
In addition to the small individual plates with accompaniments (above), we were given extra to share in the middle of the table.
The pancakes came in a cute steamer-basket..
... and were gorgeously thin and soft.
Oooh... thin like strudel pastry.
I really, really loved the duck - partly for the fact that there was heaps to be shared amongst us - it was so tasty, so juicy, so crispy. The pancakes were very soft, balancing out the firm and crispy duck.
To be honest, I would have been happy just eating duck for our meal, but we wanted to make it a "proper" dinner...
1. Honey pepper beef
2. Duck soup (made with leftover bones)
3. Steamed fish (I think barramundi?)
4. Braised mushrooms with spinach
5. E-Fu (birthday) noodles
6. Fried prawn coated in salted egg
The mains weren't as good as the duck, but not nearly as bad as has been written in other reviews I've read. The beef was cut into pieces that were slightly too big, and the fish was a bit too salty for my tastes, but those are the only faults I found with the meal. The mushrooms were deliciously slippery and fresh, and the deep-fried prawns were particularly compulsive. (But only if you like salted egg - luckily I do, and so does my gorgeous niece!) The E-Fu noodles weren't quite as impressive as the Flower Drum's, but still good.
We were absolutely stuffed by the end of the meal, and were going to skip desserts (y'all know I already baked mum a cake), but the waiters realised it was our Mum's birthday and organised a couple of plates of sweets.
Top: Red Bean Pastries
Bottom: Deep-fried pumpkin cake
These are what I think of as very Chinese desserts - oily, not too sweet and with that mouth-filling peanut-butteryness that some people find delicious, and others find totally offputting. I can eat them, but am not super-keen on them in general. I did think they were well done though.
Quan Jude is an above average dining experience. We found the service to be professional and friendly, and enjoyed the food, especially the duck. The non-duck items are quite pricey though (e.g. $39.50 for prawns, $36 for beef etc), and not particularly better than other Chinese restaurants around town - so I'd keep that in mind when ordering. Definitely worth a visit.