Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quanjude (City)

In another first Melbourne is host to the first Quanjude restaurant outside China. Part of a huge chain, over 500 I'm told, it resides at 299 Queen St. This was the space designed by Nonda Katsalidis for the former Ondine and Quanjude is a worthy successor. From the moment you enter everything says you are in a classy Chinese restaurant.

The attractive waitresses
are dressed for the part
and the ambience is richly Chinese.
From the wall decor, including a huge wall sign telling something of the story of Quanjude,
to the table settings,
with individual centre pieces.

The chain is most renowned for Peking duck which is made to a secret recipe over 100 years old. Once, when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was hosting important foreign guests at Quanjude, one of the guests asked, “What does Quanjude mean?” Premier Zhou answered with a smile, “Quan (全) means perfection without a flaw, Ju (聚) means gathering without departing, and De (德) means virtues to be supreme.” Therefore, Quanjude together implies perfection, union, and benevolence. (Wikepedia).
That's nice so what about the food? We had an exotic banquet meal which would have to be pre ordered. All the dishes are on the regular menu but normal serves are much larger. We started with Beijing Quanjude cold platter which included duck liver, duck tongue and giblets in a light chilli sauce with coriander and pickles.
The duck liver was like very fine smooth foie gras and gave unusual texture and mildness to this strange dish. This was followed by braised duck breast with South China sea cucumber drizzled with yin yang sauce. The sea cucmber has a chewy texture and was tasteless in contrast to the handsome piece of duck breast. The delicate dark and light coloured sauces were separated by a lightly cooked bok choy
Quanjude Peking duck came next, served with considerable ceremony. First the chef appeared and held up a duck for our inspection and then went about the task of carving - first ony a few strips of skinand the the thin slices of duck breast with a small amount of skin for the pancakes. These were paper thin and we folded our own with the spring onion, green vegetable and plum sauce. The ducks used here are Australian sourced from Luv-a-Duck
They are cooked in very large fan forced ovens at 190 degrees hanging head down for 45 minutes after which they must not be cooked longer and must be served.

This oven is capable of cooking 15 birds at one time. Traditionally fruit wood was used to fire the ovens but now only one Quanjude restaurant in Beijing uses wood!
We were presented with a dish of bones and a small serve of extremely tasty duck soup.
The meal was accompanied by Pi Lo Chun a very mild Chinese tea.
A small dish of steamed duck breast with duck web and Bailing Mushroom with rice wine sauce was very bland the web being texturally slightly chewy and all the taste coming from the sauce

Steamed wild Barramundi fillet, saturated with duck consomme and served with house vinegar was extremely tender an unusual and interesting dish

Sauteed scallops with Kung Po Chilli is a combination which I don't care for - scallops being sweet, tender and delicate I prefer a more delicate sauce, never the less this proved to be very palatable. An unusual variation was the inclusion of macadamia nuts.

This was followed by Wok fried Wagyu beef, oyster blade, with special soy and garlic served with soft noodles and Beijng pork sauce
Very tender, grade 8, the taste of the wagyu was recognizable thru the sauce which made for an excellent combination. Finally a Beijing pumpkin cake and white sesame cake served with red bean ice cream was a pleasant end to the meal.
A small error in the kitchen meant I did not get the red bean paste filled white sesame cake.
Two chefs were pleased to step out from their kitchen duties for a few minutes Price: Entrees are $8 up, regular mains about $32, Prawn and scallop dishes $39.50, and Peking duck $55 for a half or $88 for a whole duck. They also have three very good value lunch specials from$18 to $33
: Flavours are mild and food is well presented. This is a sophisticated restaurant that deserves to succeed but the environment for 'fine dining' is under serious threat from the difficult economic stresses.
Score: 15.5/20



neil said...

Souns like an excellent repast, now I'm sorry I missed it! Did you mean the sea cucumber was tasteless in a bad way? My thinking is that some Chinese dishes are more about texture than flavour.

Anonymous said...

Hi Neil
The sea cucumber was not at all bad. This was a meal where textures were as important as tastes. Like the webs the cucumber was both a vehicle for the sauce and a textural dish with no identifiable taste of its own