Saturday, December 21, 2013

Au Lac Royal Vegetarian Cuisine, Dickson (ACT) by Bureaucrat

A few weeks ago, I found myself in Canberra again.  This time, I was staying near Dickson - the so-called 'Chinatown' of Canberra.  I have neutral/vaguely fond-ish memories of Dickson, as I had lived near it so many moons ago. Back then, I didn't think much of this Chinatown.  A handful of Asian eateries and shops and a couple of red lanterns does not make a Chinatown... especially since the Asian eateries were easily outnumbered by the surrounding businesses, including a video rental store, pub, Maccas, KFC and a Woolies.  Since then there's been a few changes.  I was surprised to find a Korean BBQ place and even a yoga studio that proclaims itself as having locations in Canberra and London.

One of the stalwarts of the place is Au Lac.  It was well established when I had lived in Canberra but I never tried the food there.  The main reason being that, back then, I wasn't interested in vegetarian food.  However, times have changed.  Like Dickson, I now have yoga in my life, and I also have learnt to appreciate vegetarian cooking.

As it's easy to eat a lot of junk/unhealthy food while travelling, I decided to test out Au Lac for dinner.  I was surprised to see how nice it was inside the place - clean and simple, with a homely vibe, plus a pretty array of statement lights.  Even more surprising (and pleasingly) was that Au Lac is quite popular - not just among vegetarian Asians.  During my mid-week dinner, there were quite a few medium-largish tables of Westerners tucking into the mock meat and veggie dishes.

Having perused the menu, I decided to go for Ca Tim aka 'eggplant in clay pot sensation[!]' for $15.90.  When it arrived, the incredibly hot, steamy and extremely furious bubbling of the sauce made me feel like I was a witch out of Macbeth... double, double, toil and trouble! 

Because I was greedy, I attempted to take a bit out of a large chunk of eggplant... and I promptly burnt my upper palate.  A minute or two later, I finally could eat this properly.  Lovely squidgy, but firm, chunks of fresh eggplant. I could tell that it was fresh as the skin wasn't chewy and leathery, and it had no seeds, nor did it taste bitter.  Along with the eggplants, there was a reasonable-ish amount of shimeji mushrooms, mimicked the texture of the eggplant.  

The soy-based sauce was quite nice.  However, the menu did not indicate that this dish is quite spicy.  It's loaded with lots of dried chilli flakes, coarsely cracked black pepper and onions.  This meant I had to conscientiously pick out all the chilli flakes, as they really packed a punch.

I also got a serve of rice ($2.50) to go with the dish.

Food – 8
Ambiance – 7.5
Service – 7
Price – 6.5

While I really enjoyed my eggplant, I do feel that it's a bit expensive.  During the meal, I couldn't help but speculate on the profit margin they're making since my clay pot was equivalent to less than one big eggplant.

Au Lac is probably one of few vegetarian places in Canberra, and it's possibly the only one that caters for vegetarians that do not eat onions and garlic (for religious reasons).  It has a fairly extensive menu of mock meat and veggie-only based dishes.  The service is polite and prompt, and inside it's fairly spacious.  If you're in the area, I'd recommend you to try it out.  

Au Lac Royal Vegetarian Cuisine
4/35-39 Woolley Street 
Dickson ACT 2602
Telephone: 02 6262 8922

Au Lac Royal Vegetarian Cuisine on Urbanspoon


Unknown said...

It's good to hear of an Asian Vego place that doesn't just fry up a heap of gluten products to make mock meat. Thanks for sharing this find.

Bureaucrat said...

I think Au Lac uses soy-based mock meats. My preference is mock meats made from mushrooms.

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