According to Enlightened Cuisine's menu mock meat style vegetarian food is part of a long tradition in Chinese food. Based upon China's Buddhist past, for purification reasons the Emperor was unable to consume meat during the period leading up to important religious festivals. The use of 'mock' meat was an attempt to provide him with versions of his favourite foods during this period.
Interesting while this is, to me it's even more important that the food tastes good. Our group was able to bring a wide variety of food preferences to the table, Snooze as a light eater of meat, the eggs only Ms No Meat and the virtually vegan Ms M as well as myself, a committed omnivore. If the food appealed to us all then it would be a ringing endorsement of soya cows and gluten chickens.
Given Ms M was still a bit uncomfortable about ordering even the mock meat style dishes we went for two of these only, combined with two more orthodox vegetarian dishes. First up was the sliced duck with vegetables. I'd describe the taste as duck like rather than an accurate rendition of duck, as it vaguely resembled duck but lacked its rich textures and flavours particularly when it started to cool slightly. Snooze was also a little disappointed in the lack of variety of the vegetables served, mainly carrots and bok choy.
Much better was the sweet and sour pork. If you'd put this in front of me and said it was from the local Chinese take away I would have believed you, probably commenting that it was better than most. While sweet and sour pork isn't my favourite dish the sauce wasn't as gluggy or sweet as many, and taste and texture wise very similar to real pork. Even Ms M, who had been very uncomfortable about trying the dish commented that she found it delicious.
For Snooze competing with the pork for dish of the night was the king mushroom claypot. I'd have probably preferred a greater variety of mushrooms but it was just a nice dish well suited to being served in claypot (which kept it hot throughout the meal).
Final main and the only one I'd have described as a bit disappointing was the spicy eggplant. I am not always a fan of eggplant finding it goes unpleasantly soggy far too often and found this dish a bit too soft, a bit too oily and the flavours quite heavy and uninteresting. On the whole I think we all agreed that our (admittedly limited) selection of mock meat dishes were better than the more traditional vegetarian ones.
We were all pretty full by this stage but decided to order desserts anyway. Probably a mistake, as the only one of us who really enjoyed their choice was Ms M with her vegan vanilla ice cream (with caramel topping).
I found my black rice in coconut milk a bit lacking in flavours other than just coconut, whereas the sago pudding was too heavy on the palm sugar giving it a taste similar to vegemite. The result was a dish that didn't taste so much unpleasant as just a little weird.
An interesting food experience in a well presented restaurant with polite, friendly and efficient staff, I'd be curious to return to try more of the mock meat dishes without being desperate to do so. If you can get here before the end of September you can also take advantage of an anniversary discount.
Food - 7
Service - 7.5
Ambience - 7.5
Price - 6.5
113 Queens Bridge Street
Southbank VIC 3006
Tel: (03) 9686 9188