Last Saturday night we bid farewell to two friends (but made two new friends!) over a meal for six at Gong De Lin. In spite of all having visited this Chinese mushroom'n'mock restaurant before, we were a little overwhelmed by the extensive menu and deliberated at length over what to order. We did pretty well, certainly better than Michael and I on our first visit.
Though our ordering structure included entrees and mains, plates of food arrived haphazardly at the whim of the kitchen. The deep-fried shredded black mushroom with salt and pepper ($18.80) was popular, with the kind of batter and sauce often found on sweet and sour pork, and the mushroom slivers provideing extra surface area for an ultra-fried effect.
The Bean Curd Dumplings ($16.80) might've looked large and a little crude, but their tofu-based skin was mild and delicate to handle.
The Boiled Northern Dumplings ($9.80) were stuffed with finely minced tofu and green vegetables, pleasant but not a stand-out.
Honeydew Element Chicken ($16.80) proved to be all about the honey and nothing to do with melon - this was a nice 'meaty' rendering of the suburban favourite, outperforming Enlightened Cuisine's version.
Our two Vegetarian Pan Cakes ($5.00) were crispy-fried fun without a lot of flavour, but this was easily redressed with a dunking in black vinegar.
The Spicy Bean Curd ($14.80) wasn't as heat-packed as anticipated, but still appreciated by the chilli-lovers.
I pushed to try the Cold Noodle with Seven Sauce in Shanghai Style ($18.00), though the sauce platter (including soy sauce, black vinegar, chilli sauce, peanut sauce, peanuts and pickles) took up a lot of real estate on the table.
This was fun, but would probably be better shared in a pair (and the menu recommends just that!). Sitting amongst our banquet, the noodles grew cold and stuck together, leading to lots of awkward tangles as people sought small servings for their plates.
Though the noodles might be a small table affair, our larger group offered a great opportunity to cover much more of the menu. I left our first meal at Gong De Lin a little baffled, but now I have a few firm favourites to return for.
You can read about out first visit to Gong De Lin here. Since then it's received high praise on Vegan Bullsh*t. Posts from omni bloggers are generally positive and often use the word 'unusual' (see Let's Get Fat Together, EAT AND BE MERRY, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE(T), Footscray Food Blog (sponsored), Seasons of Life, with new international students least impressed).
Gong De Lin
Level 3, 264 Swanston St Melbourne
veg dishes $9.80-48.00 (most mains ~$15-20)
Accessibility: There's a ramp from the street level, then a lift up to the restaurant. Floors are almost all flat (window-side booths require a step up). Tables are packed fairly densely but passages are clear (see photo above). We received full table service. Steph reports that the toilets are accessible.