I've expressed my fondness for Peking Duck on this blog previously. So when I read Matt Preston's article, Duck Hunting, about all the restaurants serving Peking Duck in Melbourne, I really wanted to try some of the places. I had been fortunate enough to visit Flower Drum and try their Peking Duck not soon after reading the article. The Peking Duck at Flower Drum was amazingly good. However, in terms of duck alone, Quan Jude on Queen Street got a better score than Flower Drum, in fact the best score of all the restaurants. When I read Agnes' review, it prompted me to book and go finally.
As stated, Quan Jude is located on Queen Street on the outskirts of the city. This means parking was really easy, basically we parked right in front of it. The restaurant front door wasn't that obvious, as the forty foot photo of the topless lady with bunny ears on next to it was a tad distracting. But we found the door and was greeted by a concubine, well, a waitress dressed like a concubine anyway. If first impressions really do make a lasting impression, then Quan Jude had me at hello. The gold bling and ornate decorations had me in sensory excitement already. We were led down the stairs and seated at a very nicely set out table.
We stared with an entree, which consisted of duck tongue, duck liver, chicken giblets and pork hock. I really enjoyed the spicy chicken giblets and the duck liver was very smooth and delectable.
We were here for the Peking Duck so obviously ordered that. A chef came out with the duck and carved it in front of us. His skills were very good, getting even sized pieces of meat with skin. There were some skin only pieces, the most cherished part.
The duck also came with it's own certificate, stating that it was like the 115th million duck to be served in Quan Jude's history. The restaurant has been a 150 year old chain in China already. The chef placed the duck pieces in the duck plate.
Rather than making the Peking Duck wraps for you, it's left to your own devices. I actually like making it myself as it gives you control over how you want it. Surprisingly, they didn't have pickled vegetables, rather just spring onion and cucumber. I made my wraps and dug into one. It was indeed very good. The pancakes is definitely hands down the best pancake I have tried at any restaurants. The duck is a bit less fatty than most, which some may like. I myself prefer a bit more fat on it so I liked the Flower Drum duck more. I also prefer pickles but the cleaner flavour of just the cucumber and spring onions works well too. The winner for Quan Jude is the sauce. Their hoi sin is extremely good, and combined with their pancakes, I would rate them just marginally better than Flower Drum, although both are extremely good.
While we would all liked to have filled our bellies on duck alone, the wallet won't allow for that, so we got other dishes to eat as well. The Steamed Murray Cod was ok. It still had a slight muddy taste and I prefer it with a soy based sauce rather than this soup thing.
The Wild Mushroom Claypot was again quite good. The mixture of mushrooms had a lot of good flavours, but the sauce needed a bit more oomph.
The Pork Claypot smelt rather sweet and I don't like sweet stewed meats. It turned out to be ok, but not particularly to my liking.
My favourite non Peking duck dish was this Seafood and Vegetable dish. There was fish, scallop, chicken, mushroom, snow peas and some duck meat actually. The duck pieces in this dish helped to elevate the dish.
Desserts were Red Bean Pancake, Sesame Cakes, Pumpkin Cakes and Fried Banana with Toffee. The red bean cake was good, if you like red beans. I'm not a big fan so it was ok. Again, sesame I'm not hugely fond of so left those alone. The pumpkin cakes were a tad on the chewy side. The best were the fried bananas. Toffee goes really well with it as it gave it a sweetness and crunch.
The atmosphere at Quan Jude was more restrained that I would have thought. The tables were pretty sparsely positioned and the huge two level ceiling does give it this cavernous feel. It possibly needs so low hanging banners or something to break up that cavernous feel.
Service was very good. It wasn't quite Flower Drum service, but when things were served, there were people buzzing all around us doing things simultaneously. Our main waiter was very funny. One of my friends actually knew him so we had a laugh with him all night.
The Peking Duck here is very good, but the other dishes were a bit lacking. I would come back just to eat the Peking Duck. Maybe the way is to just eat duck and order lots of fried rice and fill up on that, thereby allowing the budget to eat more duck.
Overall Rating: 15/20, The Peking Duck is very good.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.