197B Middleborough Road Box Hill South, VIC 312803 9898 5944
|Opening hours||Daily 5pm-10.30pm,Tues-Fri noon-2.30pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
WHERE AND WHAT
Peking duck. Two words that go together like horse and carriage - nowhere in Melbourne more so than this Box Hill shop where Simon Lay, aka the ''duck Nazi'', who made his reputation at Collingwood's Old Kingdom, set up shop in 2010. The duck is fabulous, which is why it's necessary to book ahead. Some other things to note: it's cash only, and the paper napkins are inadequate for the job, so don't wear that all-white outfit. As for the extra ''I'' in Peiking, you ask? Well, Lay's a quirky guy.
WHERE TO SIT
The functional, maroon-and-gold-dominated corner shop bookending a Middleborough Road shopping strip doesn't have views to speak of, unless you count the office buildings across the road - but who needs views when there is roast duck of such beauty to stare at?
The wine list is short and functional, or you can BYO (wine or beer) for $2 corkage a person.
Peking duck at Simon's is like a conventional meal in reverse. It begins with the main act - golden, crisp-skinned swatches of duck cooked in a process too convoluted to describe here, save that it involves pumping air under the skin to separate it from the meat, and hanging it for six hours before roasting. Another plate is laden with sticks of cucumber and spring onion, and a pile of pancakes that are so thin it's a wonder they don't disintegrate with the application of hoisin sauce (they don't). And hey presto: one of Melbourne's finest iterations of Beijing's imperial duck. Second course depends on whether you choose the $55 or $63 duck banquet - the former involves stir-fried duck and beanshoots, the latter (recommended) option is a restorative dish of duck meat tossed with the house-made noodles, shiitakes and textural slivers of bamboo in a nicely judged broth.
Finally, the rest of the carcass is added to a light soup with silken tofu, ginger and greens. It's just got to be good for you. Each duck will feed between two and three people, and if Peking duck's not your thing, there's also a pretty standard menu of Aussie-Chinese classics. But why would you?
Chinese faces, mostly - couples and big family groups.
A specialty experience for one of the world's great dishes.