I'm joining in on Vegan MoFo! Pretty excited - it'll force me to post, which is a beautiful thing.
But before that begins: I went to Gong De Lin yesterday and it was pretty awesome.
If you're a Melbourne vegan, you've likely seen this scoopon deal for a 7 course Chinese vegan banquet at Gong De Lin, Melbourne. $39 for seven courses?! I didn't think twice about grabbing one. (Then I did think twice and promptly bought another. Whoops.) So I booked in for yesterday and off we went.
Gong De Lin is on Swanston Street, not too far from Melbourne Central and clearly signed. You enter via Noodle Kingdom and take the lift to the third floor:
Stepped into the lift, saw this. Briefly wondered what I was getting myself into. Fortunately the restaurant is much more appealing!
Stupid me forgot to get an interior pic, but it's quite nice: simple, lots of booths. We were seated at a window booth which, unfortunately, gave us a smashing view of the Myer Building construction works. Oh, well.
We tried to order the plum juice but were told it was sold out (it was either that or tea according to the deal?) - so we were told to choose any drink from the menu. We went for juices:
Left - apple/guava, right - orange/mango. Check out the straws!
These were pretty great as far as juices go - fresh and tasty. Shortly after the food started arriving - this is the first course, corn soup:
The flavour of this was really nice - slightly savoury (just slightly - not too sugary-corny) and warm. I'm not a fan of general corn soup texture though - gelatinousness weirds me the hell out. Still, we enjoyed this and would eat it again.
Pretty soon afterwards, the next course came out - veggie and mushroom dumplings still in the steamer and spring rolls. Both were great, but the spring rolls were amazing - they seemed to be mostly cabbage and onion, but something about them was incredibly addictive. I inhaled them without trying the dipping sauce (or getting an innards pic). Here's a shot of the dumpling's insides - and a big chunk of mushroom:
Next came the "vegetarian goose":
This is the point where our meals started being served with flowers! I like this touch.
This is actually flaky layers of bean curd skin stuffed with mushrooms, served with a black vinegar dipping sauce. I'm not the hugest fan of bean curd skin, but the mushrooms inside it were lovely and it was a super interesting dish. I don't think it's something I'd order again, but I'm glad I tried it.
Then our mains came out and we really started drooling.
Top - sweet and sour; bottom - spicy "chicken"
I'm a sucker for the Chinese restaurant food I grew up eating, so I loved these. The sweet and sour "chicken" (both dishes had the same mock-meat, I think) was soft and coated in a super-thick, almost gelatinous sauce. There was plenty of pineapple and capsicum. There's not much I can really say about sweet and sour that hasn't been said before - but this was easily the best version I've had in ages.
The spicy "chicken" was also great - a fair bit of kick, great flavours, served with lots of veggies. There are also peanuts and water chestnut in there. I loved this immediately - I grew up loving chicken and cashews and never make stirfry without nuts at home, so I was pretty happy with it.
Finally. Dessert: mini rice flour dumplings in what the menu called "sweet sauce", but was actually a fascinating light broth flavoured with goji berries and chrysanthemum flowers (I think):
At this point we realised we'd eaten far too much and gave up entirely. Here's the aftermath:
Overall, the service was great, the food came out quickly and it was delicious. We're already planning a return visit for more of those spring rolls and the pepper "steak". If you managed to grab a Scoopon, you're going to enjoy it! I'm looking forward to using my next one. When I stop feeling so bloated, anyway.