Saturday, June 2, 2012

Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

From a simplistic viewpoint Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery is a contradiction: a temple to Buddha located in the midst of Melbourne’s temples to mammon, a café located inside an art gallery and vegetable products masquerading as meat. However, if you look a bit deeper the contradiction is more apparent than real, as whether banker or artist we all need to eat, and even the dedicated carnivore can benefit from the occasional purifying vegetarian meal.

From another important perspective it’s also a calm and comfortable place to get away from the hustle and bustle of central Melbourne. You’d almost certainly need to know about it before hand though, it’s not really the sort of place you’d come across by accident. Enter through an ornate but dark entrance hall, walk past the small gallery with its numerous no photo signs (which only apply to the gallery not the café – we asked) and you’ll find it, a medium sized dining area with what appeared to be a single room off to the side presumably for pre-booked larger groups.

Each day a small range of specials are offered, along with a few entrees and mains offered every day. A small amount of prior research (which I recommend if possible before trying any new eatery) indicated that the cumquat tea was highly recommended. The research did indeed pay off with the tea being the highlight of the meal. It was sweet, it was fragrant and fruity, and it was bright orange! The only downside, an annoying trick where the cumquat inserted in the pot would sometimes get stuck at the bottom of the spout with the result tea split over the table. Well I maintain that was the reason for my tea spillage although it could have just been a lack of tea pouring skills.

Despite the three daily specials and the fact that three of us visiting it took us a surprising amount of time to work out we could get one each and so sample the lot, which we complemented with a serve of the ‘beef’ curry puffs. First of all the curry puffs. Nicely fried so as to be light and fluffy, good flavours and a slight spicy kick.

While the three specials did vary a bit in quality, I chose the best, the beef curry. Rather than any special choosing skills this was more related to the fact that neither Snooze nor Ms No Meat are fans of spicy food. The curry had the taste and texture of slow cooked beef, rich and tender.

From memory Ms No Meat went for the duck with lemon sauce. I’ve tried vegetarian duck before and been distinctly unimpressed. Duck is a rich and slightly fatty meat, fairly strong in flavour and dark in colour for poultry. When I’d tried vegetarian duck before it had never been able to get anywhere near the richness of duck meat, and the texture had turned out slightly slimy. This was much better, the texture appropriately dense and not at all slimy. Even the flavour was kind of ‘ducky’. While not as good as the beef, which could have been confused with the real thing, perfectly fine.

The one dish which didn’t quite work was Snooze’s pork. The piece I tried I thought was bland in flavour and a little mushy in texture. It wasn’t so much that it was bad but that it obviously wasn’t pork, compounded by being uninteresting. Anyway, five items ordered, three winners, one pass and only one not really up to the mark.

With a nice and relaxing environment, helpful staff and an interesting take on food, I predict a number of return visits will be made here. If you are interested in an introduction to vegetarian ‘meat’ meals it would be a good place to start as well.

Food – 7.5 (including the tea)
Service – 7
Ambience – 7
Price – 7

141 Queen Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9642 3288

Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake said...

What an interesting place to eat! The food looks quite interesting too, great find. :)

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