A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published August 28th 2014
Ginseng House is a Chinese restaurant located at 83 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn. I was keen to visit because I'd purchased a voucher for a 'duck special' for $39 (normally $50), which offered Peking duck (16 pieces) and a duck meat fried rice. As you may have guessed, I'm a little partial to duck meat!
Not being familiar with Ginseng House, or the strip of Whitehorse Road where it's located, I did a quick scan on Google street view. It showed a very run down building at number 83. Clearly we were either heading to a rather dilapidated dive of a restaurant, or Ginseng House had not been open for very long and the street view photo out of date.
Happily, it proved to be the latter. Ginseng House is located out of the hub of the trendy part of Whitehorse Road abutting the Palace Balwyn Theatre. It's in an area that's not far from Burke Road, and which certainly has development potential.
The front of Ginseng House - bright and welcoming
This is not to detract from Ginseng House, however. Ginseng House has been renovated to create a bright, clean look, that is comfortable and unpretentious. On the Saturday night we visited, only a couple of other tables were occupied. We did notice though that the take away business was steady, and also learned that the restaurant has a well established home delivery service, available to the surrounding suburbs of Kew, Hawthorn East, Balwyn and Canterbury.
We received a warm and friendly greeting on arrival and were shown to a table. We were able to BYO bottle of wine; always a good way to keep the meal costs down.
Just a couple of other tables of diners that night
Our first dish was the Peking duck. A huge platter of the divine duck pancakes arrived, looking most inviting. We quickly dived in and were not disappointed. The duck was tender and moist, the pancakes had just the right degree of chewiness. Each was served with the classic strips of finely diced cucumber and spring onion.
Our platter of 16 serves of Peking duck looked impressive
Being super picky I will say that for me, part of the appeal of Peking duck is the 'show' of the duck being brought to the table and carved, and the pancakes constructed, in front of me. But hey, Ginseng House is not pretending to be a silver service restaurant, nor is it charging silver service prices, so what can one expect?
We were impressed with the mound of fried rice that arrived next. It was perhaps a little oilier than I'd have liked, but came with a generous amount of duck mixed through it. Unless you were VERY into eating duck, you'd probably have chosen something different to accompany the Peking duck first course. As it was, a fair portion of the fried rice came home with us in a takeaway container, and was delicious for lunch the next day.
The fried rice was packed with succulent duck meat
Overall, we found Ginseng House to offer reasonable quality food at very fair prices, with only a couple of dishes on the menu exceeding $20. You'll probably find your Chinese favourites on the menu, like lemon chicken ($13), beef with black bean sauce ($13), and sweet and sour pork ($13). There are also chef's specials, like 'three tastes deep fried fish fillet' ($18) and Chinese broccoli with sausage ($20).
Ginseng House offers a relaxed environment, yet the staff were attentive. We would happily return and try some other dishes.
Ginseng House is open from 11.30am to 9.45pm seven days. The home delivery service is available from 5.00pm to 9.45pm every day, except Wednesdays (when the service is closed). To view the menu and/or order home delivery online, click here.