Peeking at the family cuisine
PEKING RESTAURANT 40 Main Rd, Claremont Licensed and BYO, dinner and takeaways Tuesday to Sunday from 5pm Phone: 6249 4401
AS the SBS TV ad says, behind all food there’s a story. And the story behind the Peking Restaurant’s food is of generations of Andy Jan’s and his wife Melissa’s ( Chan) families, both from nearby villages outside Guangdong in China, grandfather Chan arriving in Hobart in 1954, the Jan family 30 years later when Andy was nine.
Market gardening in Glenorchy provided for the rest of the Chan family to come out, various members of whom then went on to open a restaurant in Magnet Court followed by the Oriental Restaurant, in Sandy Bay in 1968, the Red Ruby, where Glenorchy’s Northgate is now and subsequently in Beaconsfield, in the Tamar Valley.
For the Jan family, it was work in the King Wah restaurant, in New Town, owned by Andy’s uncle, Kim Jan, followed by a few years in Chinese restaurants in Melbourne before returning and buying the Peking in 1989 from Albert Ng who in turn moved on to open the Flourishing Court, now Remi de Provence, in Macquarie St.
Altogether, the Peking has operated for about 40 years since it replaced Claremont’s general store, remembered today for the hanging gumboots which decorated its streetfront awning.
It’s a familiar migrant story of hard work and extended family support.
Andy’s mother still makes the restaurant sauces, while he mans the woks and Melissa runs the floor.
“After 25 years, we’re all still working together,” says Melissa.
“Our parents, Andy’s sister and our cousins – it’s a real family thing and the restaurant is the centre of our extended family life.
“And that’s what you need to succeed in a business like ours.”
And succeed they have with a busy local dining and takeaway clientele that includes a lady who has been a regular since they opened and now comes in with her great grandchildren.
Another, on the night of our visit, was a lady driving a big, black BMW, in from Glenorchy for her family’s takeaway dinner.
“We always come here,” she said. “For us, it’s not the nearest, or the cheapest, but the food is brilliant.”
That said, it’s not the Me Wah. Nor is it as cheap and basic as Written on Tea. Or the food as spicy as at Hejos.
And, while the 100- plus- item- menu might be ’ 70s suburban and there are cans of Coke on some of the tables, those tables are white-clothed, the chairs comfortable, the décor light and bright with a few Chinese screens and knick- knacks but little else of the usual Chinese kitsch, the service is delightfully informal and we found the food very enjoyable.
To our amusement, the chopstick wrappers still carry a six- digit phone number predating the 62 prefix. They must have ordered thousands of them.
And, while Melissa said they have at times tried to change and modernise the menu, I’ve no doubt that consistency accounts for a large part of their popularity. As well, of course, as their generous servings. So to our food. The meaty, nicely spiced and steamed dim sims are made in- house. The Chinese sausage isn’t but was beautifully tender with an intriguing fermented flavour, its richness pleasingly cut and freshened by a little juice of the accompanying lemon and lime wedges.
A huge barbecued pork omelette was good and smoky and came swimming in a sweetish sauce while the Singapore noodles with shrimps and vegetables were subtly flavoured with curry and served with an optional side of fiery chilli paste.
Then, from the 70 or so poultry, beef, lamb, seafood and vegetarian options we chose Mongolian beef which was beautifully tender and came on a sizzle platter and prawns that were crisp and crunchy in the Asian way in a mildly chilli- flavoured honey sauce.
The wine list is concise and very well selected, with good Tasmanians, some with age and all at very reasonable prices – ’ 05 Grey Sands Merlot $ 53, Bream Creek Chardonnay $ 36 – the reds with vintage years but with no wines by the glass.
Price guide: Dim Sims ( 3) $ 7; Chinese sausage $ 9; Barbecued Pork Omelette $ 19.50; Singapore Noodles $ 18; Mongolian Beef $ 28; Honey Chilli Prawns $ 27.50.