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Located far far away in the land of Box Hill lies a peking duck restaurant renown for their version of the Beijing classic and the “Duck Nazi”: the owner who rules the kitchen with an iron fist and oversees the preparation of each duck.
Note: we met Simon on the night (as do most of his other patrons) and he was actually quite lovely.
J, Mr. mutual friend, and myself arrived 15 minutes prior to our 8pm dining session and spied a fairly empty restaurant as we looked in from the car.
7.55pm: practically empty with only three tables completely occupied.
8.10pm: not a single free table left.
Giant fan decoration.
It had been a while since I had last eaten these and upon spotting the words ‘prawn crackers’ on the menu, I couldn’t help but order some. J and Mr. MF weren’t keen so I had to attempt the plate on my own. And failed. Simon shook his head and followed it up with a ‘tsk tsk’ when he saw the prawn crackers later on.
On another note, this is just a little something that I picked up from eating Peking Duck in China, but the prawn crackers can actually be added to the pancake to provide an extra element of taste and crunch.
Stuffed scallop shell - scallop shell stuffed with crab, scallop, chicken and vegetables, with a mild curry flavouring, deep fried and then served.
Ahhh is that a familiar dish I see? A few months ago, I had tried the equivalent at Old Kingdom (same wording on the menu!), so it was interesting to see how the two compared. The batter looked crispy, but turned out to be quite soft and somewhat soggy. The dish was laden with onions, which provided a potent sweet flavouring that clashed a little with the curry flavouring.
Crispy bean curd - bean curd stuffed with minced prawn, deep fried in crispy batter, then served with an oyster-based sauce, prepared with chicken and Szechuan pickled vegetable.
Another familiar dish and this time… point Simon’s Peiking Duck! The tofu was quite crisp and when left to soak in the saucy juices, the tofu were quite similar to chinese donut soaked in congee.
And now for our main dishes, which featured… Peking duck! Did you guess? :) Ducks must be booked at least a day in advance (a description of the preparation is provided in the menu) and one duck is recommended between two-three people. The entire duck is used over three courses: duck and pancakes, soup, and stir fried bean shoots or noodles (bean shoot option costs $55 while the noodle option charges $63)
A not-so-scary Simon. (On another note, Ack-la would be so proud of my stalker-like skills)
The pancakes were the first to be served and Simon personally comes around to each table to do so. The theatrics are much more thrilling when it comes to a larger audience on the larger tables, with “oohs” and “aahs” bound to ensue when Simon tosses the pancakes onto the plates. Other than this, he also goes over the process of folding the pancake correctly.
So much duck…
Simon’s folded pancake. Fortunately, he had demonstrated the process on my plate and so I wasn’t given the opportunity to make a mistake in his presence.
Ready to fold: cucumber, scallions and a piece of duck skin placed at the 3 o’ clock position on the pancake, with Simon’s clear instructions on repeat in my mind:
My version of the folded pancake.
Perfectly carved, the amount of skin to meat ratio of each slice was perfect for the pancake. Similar to Old Kingdom, the pancakes here were quite large and delicately paper-thin. The amount of crispness sported by each pancake added an additional crunch to the already-crispy duck skin.
Duck meat, stir fried with egg noodles. (Other noodle options include hand-made noodles, thin rice noodles and thick hor fun noodles)
Visually it certainly didn’t look amazing, but the noodles were delicious. The sauce flavouring went perfectly with the tender duck pieces and bean shoots. Occasionally, a crispier piece of noodle was encountered, resulting in a nice crunch. It’s almost always the duck+pancake that steals the show, but at Simon’s the noodles definitely shared a part of the spotlight. As delicious as the noodles were though, we started to feel the effects of everything else we had eaten up until this point.
Mr. MF: “Keep eating! Keep eating! He’s going to kill us!”
We didn’t quite manage to polish off the plate clean but did pretty well considering how full we were feeling.
Last to be served: the soup. Duck bone soup with bean curd.
The soup had a very ‘sweet’ taste thanks to being cooked for what would have been hours with the duck bones. The wisps of duck meat present in the soup were all very tender and broke away in stringy clumps. Overall, very light and refreshing, and it definitely helped to “wash” down everything else.
Something I wasn’t keen on trying.
The so-called “duck nazi” definitely has a captivating and charismatic charm that makes the dining experience much more enjoyable. If not for the tasty duck+pancake and noodles, the drive to Box Hill is worth it to see the legendary Simon in action.
Simon’s Peiking Duck
179b Middleborough Rd,
Box Hill South, Victoria, 3128.
(03) 9898 5944