One duck is a lot for one, particularly for lunch, but it looks like you had a good go at it. Pleased you enjoyed. Simon's Peiking duck is not about finesse, but all about flavour. I can taste the sweet, oily, crunchy mouthful now!
When the needs of the One outweigh that of the Many
February 15 2012, 7:55 PM
Thanks for reporting and confirming Andrew's observations.
The eatery looks very rustic and not like sone of the fancy duck restaurants I've been dragged too.......er...I don't like duck.
However, I make exception for CRISPY duck skin in a pancake
For me, the taste is primary and so I was amused by some of the 'shows' at duck restaurants in Beijing. During a recent trip, I was offered duck for breakfast, lunch and dinner by three different hosts. I guess they are proud of their duck!
Looks delicious. And pretty cool that Simon himself carves it at your table. Most of the places here in SoCal serves the sliced duck on a bed of crispy fried shrimp crackers. And at the Cantonese style places they have the steamed buns instead of the thin crepes.
... at least once through the meal, and usually to serve your first pancake. He gives you strict instructions how to fold each one. And no one dares disobey.
Interesting variation in the US. Ours are always made with the crepe-like pancakes, and the strength and quality of these is just as important as the duck itself. I wonder how duck is served in Beijing these days?
.. it is just a different restaurant style, or perhaps the bao are suited for different times of the day? There is very little information on the use of buns versus pancakes for Peking Duck. Some sources suggest it is a Taiwanese style, and others that the buns accompany Cantonese style roast duck (and certainly not Peking style duck). I would love to hear from someone with definitive information and historical perspective.
I claim no definitive knowledge but here are my observations.
The staple flour-based filler of Northern China is the 'bao' steamed/fried flat bun that is partially folded.
It is eaten with everything with a sauce, stew or braised; especially in Winter. Some flour-based noodles also appear in northern cuisine.
Southern China go for rice and rice-based noodles/vermicelli as well as rice congee. However, somewhere along the time line, the refined Cantonese (southern) cuisine made it back North to be Imperial cuisine. China had moved its capital from north to south and back north.
Chang'an (Xian) to Nanjing to Beijing.........with interludes in Luoyang, Kaifeng, Hangzhou, Anyang and Zhengzhou.
So, the fancy thin pancakes started being used for wrapping the goose skin (later Peking Duck) as a delicacy with plum sauce and spring onions.
If you go to Beijing, they laugh at the skinny pancakes and still use the mantou (barbarian's head) bun. Of course, as a sop to 'refinement' the mantou these days are pretty flat (thin) in the fancy duck restaurants.
During the Simons Peiking Duck review, another Melbourne underground duck venue surfaced: Little Beijing House (LBH).
This restaurant is even more out of the way and grungy than Simons, but the comparisons are interesting: You order the number of ducks you want at the time of booking. The price is fixed per duck with soup and noodle accompaniment. While Simons launches straight into the duck, at LBH our palates are teased with a rich peppery duck soup, much more flavorsome than Simons. (However, after a plate of Peking duck at Simons you are glad of a light soup to wash away the oil!).
The Peking duck here is quite different. The pancakes are thin and strong but slightly rubbery. The duck meat is wonderfully flavored and the skin crispy, but overall it is less fatty and slightly drier than Simons. And this is where our table of hungry duck lovers were divided in opinion. I feel that the rich tasty duck fat so prominent at Simons ties all the flavours together and spreads them around the mouth in a way that lasts well after the mouthful is swallowed. The LBH version was less orgasmic, but still had some great flavours.
And the noodles were superior to Simons with more duck meat and the accompanying greens had the appropriate crunch and I liked the fact that the sauce was served on the side and not poured over the greens.
So LBH should definitely be on any duck lovers list, but along with Simons and Quanjude (review to follow), that list is certainly not mutually exclusive.
You may be right that the clear soup at one of the restaurants is welcomed relief from the fatty duck. In Beijing, at one of the 'original' establishments, the soup came before the main course as a teaser. Unfortunately, I do not have a photo from 2002 because the shock was enough to phase me. The current Mrs MTF and I did not drink the soup......I barely sipped a teaspoonful. This was because it came as a milky white liquid that I discovered was an emulsion of duck fat in duck broth. At the end of the meal, the soup had separated into two layers of fat and water.....not a pretty sight.
The fat noodles at Little Beijing House is not common to find outside China and I am impressed that there you have it Down Under. But wait, the fastest growing cuisines in Australia for the last decade are Vietnamese, Chinese (all regions and even from 're-exported' styles from Malaysia/Singapore/HKG), Korean and Japanese. So, perhaps it is not a surprise after all!
Looking at the duck photos only, I would go for the one at Simon's but the noodles and other ancillaries at Little Beijing House; that's not accounting for taste.
This message has been edited by MelvynTeillolFoo on Apr 12, 2012 7:27 PM