197 Smith St, Fitzroy (map)
The lovely and delightful Miss T, who was the first of my friends to organise a group to attend one of the Cafe Vue Cocktail Nights, corralled 11 of us the other week for a Duck Duck Duck Peking Duck Extravaganza at Old Kingdom.
Old Kingdom is in Smith Street Fitzroy, just down the road from Goshen, one of my favourite Korean restaurants. I had never been to Old Kingdom before, and was very excited about this opportunity to sample their legendary Peking duck. The duck at Old Kingdom needs to be ordered 48 hours in advance and as you will see, a $50 investment per duck gets you the whole freaking kit and kaboodle! The restaurant furniture and decor is seriously Old School Suburban Chinese which gave it a certain faded charm, even if the air conditioning unit above our table at one stage started drizzling fine rainforest mist upon us...
Once we were all seated and had cracked open the obligatory bottles of Pinot Noir (the liquid mate to Peking duck), our duck man arrived at the table, presented our "demonstration" duck to us, ripped its glazed head off with a flourish and proceeded to carve it up. We passed around the plate of thin crêpey pancakes and took one each (that's T on the left acting as my hand model!).
As he carved, our duck man kept up an obviously tried and true patter about the steps that would be required in the construction of our Peking duck pancakes. We weren't served by the original Duck Nazi owner (perhaps this young whippersnapper was his son?), but T assured me that the younger version's jokes were just as bad. :)
"Step ONE," he proclaimed, drowning out all other table chatter, "spring onion and cucumber at QUARTER PAST THREE. Okay? Quarter past three."
He then distributed the bowls of hoisin sauce and deftly placed a piece of duck, crispy skin face upwards, over each person's vegetables. "Step TWO, teaspoon of sauce over the pancake. Hey - HEY! HEY!" he shouted at best-friend-K, with duck-bearing chopsticks poised over her plate. "What?" she responded, looking slightly perturbed. He looked down at her pancake and the askew vegetables and exclaimed "Spring onion and cucumber at QUARTER PAST THREE position! Quarter past three, or NO DUCK FOR YOU!". Only when she had righted her vegetables would he place the duck on her plate.
When we had all completed Step Two, he further directed us: "Step THREE - fold the pancake. Six o'clock UP, twelve o'clock DOWN, nine o'clock ACROSS, then open mouth and duck goes in, HAHAHAHAHA!"
You can find an old clip on youtube showing the whole Old Kingdom duck experience here! :)
And how was the Peking duck, I hear you ask? It was PRETTY DAMN GOOD, up there with the Peking duck at Pacific Seafood BBQ House and (predictably) Flower Drum, but you get much more bang for your buck here.
On this blog I recently hypothesised that if I had to plan my final meal on earth, zucchini flowers stuffed with goats cheese would probably feature as an entree. Well, add to that really good Peking duck (and some amazing sashimi like the stuff I tasted from the Sydney Fish Market in December)... haven't decided on what the main would be yet. What would feature on the menu at your Last Supper?
We'd foolishly decided to order a side serve of vegetables - gai lan with oyster sauce. It tasted fine, but what with the enormous amount of food produced from the ducks, turned out to be wholly superfluous.
Just as we thought we couldn't eat another bite of duck for a good long time, the second duck course came out - yes, when you pre-order your Peking duck at Old Kingdom you sign on for THREE duck courses! The second course was a somewhat more prosaic but still very nice stir fry of the leftover duck meat with bean shoots.
The final course was a duck and tofu broth, which was a great way to kick start the digestive process. When the soup was finished, we tottered out of the restaurant, stopping by the kitchen to pick up plastic bags of the leftover duck bones (all the better to make duck stock with) for L and T: "It's an Asian parents thing", they explained with embarrassment... :)
We made our way up the road to the Panama Dining Room and for once I was able to snag a table and couches right next to one of their magnificent Play School Arched Windows. We sat and drank to recover from the Duck Duck Duck Peking Duck Extravaganza, and girded our loins for the French Film Festival screening we were attending at 9:30 up at the Westgarth: Paris. I reckon Paris sorely lacked the energy of Cédric Klapisch's earlier films but hey, you can't have everything in one night, can you? :)