Peek­ing at the fam­ily cui­sine

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASTE - Graeme Phillips

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.

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