13th April 2015
179 Queen Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Korean BBQ? Been there, done that. Except it turns out that I haven’t – not quite anyway. Whilst I am intimately familiar with the seductive sizzling of beef and pork and occasionally chicken over a coal fire, I have to admit that duck is not something that swims to the forefront of my mind when I think KBBQ.
As it turns out, duck is actually a rather popular BBQ meat in Korea, and its absence in Melbourne meant that the opening ORee Korean Duck Restaurant was long overdue. Though the outer half of the restaurant felt like a casual takeaway lunch sort of place, the inner sanctum was lined with booths and ventilator pipes that are surely familiar to anyone who has ever had Korean BBQ. And if you haven’t, the smoky smells will give the gig away.
We were recommended the Course 2 ($60pp) by our lovely waitresses, and being cold and hungry, we happily agreed on the 8 courses of duck-centric goodness. Within minutes we were plied with plates of banchan, and the first course – Duck with Nut Porridge. Though unusual sounding, the combination of almonds and rice boiled down in duck stock was nutty and comforting. And if you want a bit more pep, you have your choice between sour pieces of crunchy Kimchi, slivers of Pickled Onion, and chewy strips of marinated Fish Cake. The best bit of all however was the Steamed Egg Omelette. Piping hot and aerated like cotton candy, it was studded with specks of carrot and onion, and perfect for whetting the appetite. And yes, it is complimentary.
Our next course was the Fried Duck Salad with Kiwi Dressing. Koreans have always been good at frying, and these succulent pieces of duck were bound tightly in a crisp and savoury batter. It reached its full potential when dipped in the (spoiler alert!) honey mustard sauce that we were served later on. One thing I couldn’t wrap my mind around however was the salad. Whilst the vegetables held no surprises, the kiwi dressing tasted like melted fruit-flavoured ice cream, and left me with my bewildered face on. Don’t get me wrong – it tasted nice; I just wasn’t sure how to feel about it.
Another twist on a classic dish was the Fried Duck Dumpling, which was delicious with its pink and juicy centre, dipped in sweet and sour sauce.
At roughly this point in the meal, Chris left to go to the bathroom. Why am I mentioning this? Because on the way back in, he walked smack-bang into the devilishly clean sliding glass door, and proceeded to bleed profusely from his nose for the next 15 minutes, scaring all the staff (and me of course!) silly. He’s alright now, but the swelling is making his nose look even more crooked than it already is. So if the food descriptions become a bit weak after this, you’ll know why.
Between dried blood off Chris’ face and giving first-aid advice, I managed to stuff down mouthfuls of the Fresh Roast Duck (100g). Even in my anxious state, I was able to appreciate just how delicious it was. The duck was rich and meaty, lined with just enough fat to give it that extra flavour. I had fun playing mix and match with the buffet of condiments we were given, and I decided that it tasted the best with Onion Sauce and Salt and Pepper.
The second plate for the BBQ was the Smoked Duck (100g). With some of the fat trimmed off, this duck tasted a lot leaner. The smoking process also left it a lot more tender, and infused it with a woody aroma reminiscent of camping trips. It was distinctly different from the roast duck, and I honestly couldn’t decide on which I liked more.
The leftover duck bones were made into Duck Soup to be served with rice. I was super full by this point as Chris hadn’t done much eating, but I did manage a sip or two. Steeped with herbs, this soup was light and cleansing – an ideal conclusion to the rich BBQ meats.
The last savoury dish (I know! More!) was the Marinated Soy Bulgogi (100g). Instead of being cooked on a fire, this mix of duck and vegetables were cooked on a stone hot plate, which was slanted ingeniously so that all the fat dripped into a little paper cup.
Having been marinated for hours in the sweet soy, all the tough fibres in the duck were broken down, and the result was the most tender and succulent duck I’ve ever had. Interspersed with the meat were a variety of vegetables, including bushels of mushrooms and thinly sliced onion to soak up the marinade.
Luckily, our dessert contained no duck. Instead, it was the popular Korean (and Asian) dessert of White Bingsu, aka fluffy shaved ice cream topped with condensed milk and sweet red beans.
Despite Chris busting his nose, this was still one of the nicest Korean meals I’ve had in a long time. The food was both high quality and well made, and a duck-centric menu is definitely not something you see every day. Just make sure you do like duck because it’s in more or less in everything on the menu – no joke.
Rating: 15.5/20 – quacker of a meal.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of ORee Korean Duck Restaurant.