Mission #1: Gong De Lin
Here it goes – my last post for my August mission to try vegetarian food. This was a last minute decision on Friday and a special thanks goes out to foodiepanda for suggesting this place on Instagram!
I had trouble the previous week trying to identify a vegetarian dinner place in the city that wasn’t Indian or Hare Krishna food, thus a simple Instagram question and answer led me to Gong De Lin.
Speaking of, we witnessed some lively Hare Krishna dancing as we strolled the streets of Melbourne before our vegetarian meal, how animated Melbourne becomes on Fridays!
Gong De Lin is more hidden than your typical laneway gem. You pretty much have to walk into Noodle Kingdom on Swanston St, but to your left is a dingy elevator that will take you to the restaurant or a bar called Goldilocks.
Once you arrive, there’s not a convenient place to stand except almost blocking the elevator. The waiters brusquely asked if we had bookings and would walk off after our answer. So I guessed we weren’t getting a table soon…until they walked past again and said fifteen minutes. The moment some people left, the paper tablecloth was cleared and we were seated.
Although their communication (or lack of) and attitude was a bit off-putting, they surprisingly didn’t get much wrong. They set the table and didn’t stuff up our order. I was surprised, but I still don’t rate their service that well. Their manner is abrupt and makes you feel unwanted – perhaps it’s because we weren’t Chinese and their English is limited.
We were seated in a booth by the window overlooking Swanston St and I was grateful as it was spacious and comfy. I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of the restaurant (pictured earlier) with people walking past you constantly.
Vegetarian and Asian food seems to cater for my love for drinks so I was eager to try some different flavoured tea. This time I went for oolong rose tea, with the basic fragrance of oolong enhanced by some remnant of a rose sitting in the pot. I enjoyed the aroma immensely but my friend did not.
For appetisers we ordered the Minced Stuffing Serves with Lettuce – if you are familiar with Chinese food, it’s basically san choy bow. It was full with the stuffing and tasted quite healthy, but I would have preferred some sauce to go with it.
Next up was one of the mushroom dishes, I can’t remember which! It was probably one of the Stir-fried Mushrooms with Seasonal Vegetables. This is where I started to get a bit confused about what I was eating – the mushroom almost looked like chicken but its texture was definitely more spongy.
I didn’t mind the dish itself with its light sauce, but as the texture and taste confused me slightly I think I preferred the next dish.
Mock meat is a craze I discovered during my vegetarian adventures, but I’d never heard of mock seafood! Thus I curiously ordered the Combination Seafood with Tofu in Casserole. The herbs gave the sauce a bit more flavour, which is probably why I enjoyed it more than the previous dish.
Consequently, the tofu was enjoyable in this sauce. What looked like prawns and crab balls mimicked the texture of the seafood quite well, the taste was not exactly the same, but only a bit plainer.
Last of all, we decided to order some rice to go with it – Fried Rice with Vegetarian Pork. The pork was a bit like ham/spam and there were only several slices, leaving a lot of rice. For about $16, the bowl is pretty massive and we couldn’t finish it! However, my friend had been eyeing someone’s rice before we were seated and doesn’t think it was this one…perhaps it was the Special Fried Rice.
Our meal came to about $70, so this place is not exactly cheap, although we pretty much rolled into the elevator. The good thing about Asian restaurants is that they allow you to take home your leftover food.
It was definitely an interesting experience and I’m glad we discovered it. You’ll have to read my next post to see which place I enjoyed most this month and look out for my next upcoming event and theme. I’m excited already!