Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gong de Lin, Melbourne CBD by Big Phil

It was Ms No Meat’s turn to choose a dining location, so it was no surprise it was vegetarian for lunch. I was pleased at her choice of destination though, a fairly new Chinese vegetarian restaurant located on Swanston Street. Swanston Street is a bit of a dead zone for CBD eateries as far as I'm concerned, hopefully Gong de Lin could succeed in raising the bar a bit.


When you talk about places you wouldn’t find without knowing they are there, well this place has got to be near the top of the pile. I don’t remember any signage outside the building (although possibly I just missed it). You go into the lift alongside Noodle Kingdom and when the door opens you don’t really know what to expect, but the surprise is a nice one. Tasteful, restrained, looking for all the world like a regular, somewhat upmarket Chinese restaurant.

There are a few tables for larger groups but with the restaurant nearly empty and there only being the three of us we were able to score a prime window seat. The view on this particular day was a little mediocre, courtesy of a dull grey Melbourne day, but on a sunnier day it would no doubt have been a nice view out of the window.

The menu is long, filled with a mixture of faux-meat and more regular vegetarian options. Our previous experience that when it comes to faux meat that ‘fried is normally good, not fried is normally not good’, and this generally influences our ordering preferences. Trouble on this occasion was there were a lot of dishes we wanted to try and a slightly ill Ms No Meat wasn’t very hungry, limiting us to three dishes only.

Teppanyaki vegetarian steak. Sounds wrong doesn’t it but the taste was pretty good. Not quite the flavour of true Teppanyaki steak and the texture wasn’t really there either, but it was rich and flavoursome and no cute animals involved in its preparation.

The other two dishes were more strictly vegetarian. Fried rice with seaweed and pine nuts was much better than your typical suburban fried rice. Fragrant and delicate with some texture added by the pine nuts, puts most typical ham cube and pea versions to shame.

I also liked the stir fried mushrooms mixed with nuts. The savoury flavours of mushrooms combined with the texture of the nuts is always likely to be a winner with me, vegetarian restaurant or not. However being vegetarian meant that the concentration on these components was likely higher than if part of a more meat oriented meal.

What did let the food down somewhat was the food was served luke warm at best, with bits of the rice almost cold and the other dishes not much warmer. Still, I do plan to return to give more of the menu a workout, maybe in the company of Hungry Pete on his next visit to town.

I used to be quite dubious about mock meat Chinese restaurants but am starting to be won over by the good ones at least. The food is tasty, it's filling, and if the texture and flavour isn’t always spot on it’s generally pretty close. Next time though, hopefully it will be served a bit warmer.

Food – 7
Service – 6.5
Ambience – 7.5
Price – 7

Level 3, 264 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9663 7878

Gong dè Lin on Urbanspoon


Cindy said...

Ah, dishes served lukewarm is not good! At least the flavours worked out for you. I'll have to try that rice next time I visit.

Anonymous said...

Try the tofu claypot next time. It's really FABULOUS!!

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