Gong De Lin 功德林，as you might guess, is a Chinese chain restaurant. I tried the Shanghai branch once but didn't go back, as Shanghai has so many other better offers. Here in Melbourne, especially in CBD, we don't have many vegan choices and we have been to Lord of the Fries and Gopals several times, so we finally decided to try this Chinese joint after a long afternoon of strolling around in the city botanic garden.
The restaurant is located on the 3rd floor of the building, near China Town, so it's only accessible by the lift. There are simple table, chairs and separated sofa style chairs, which are often seen in China. The atmosphere is warm, casual and relaxed. We were lucky to sit next to the window, where you can enjoy a bit CBD skyline and street. The only thing I dislike is that they also burn some incense there, which is understandable as they're an Buddhist inspired, although I found that a bit disturbing on my appetite as I don't like to associate the smell with cooked food together.
Menu caters a lot of mock meat dishes that are commonly seen in Chinese vegan/vegetarian restaurants. We were almost attempted to order our usual favorites, but I decided to try something new.
Above: Hot and spicy Sichuan style mock chicken pieces stir-fry with sliced water chestnut, red paprika chunks, cubed carrots and cucumbers, red and green chilis. The mock chicken pieces were made of deep-fried extra firm tofu. Honey said water chestnut were presented only in Chinese cuisine in Chinese restaurants in Sweden, although it's not a common ingredient in China. The sauce was very authentic Sichuan style, hot chili pickles (泡椒) were used to add its particular flavor. If you don't tolerate very spicy food, be cautious when ordering this one then! Although it's also a bit spicy for us we do love this dish very much.
Below: The Chinese title for this dish is called Every Piece is a Treasure. The main ingredients are Lion's Mane mushroom chunks with macadamia nuts, together with carrot, cucumber and baby corns. Lion's Mane mushroom, also called Monkey's Head (猴头菇）in Chinese, is a common meat substitute in Chinese vegan dishes. The texture is tender and smooth yet a bit chewy. It has to be prepared well to bring out the wonderful flavor. Macadamia nuts are everywhere in Australia. So in a way I feel it's a nice dish that features its original taste and main ingredient while adding something local. The sauce is slightly light, but overall we also like this dish.
Judging from the two dishes we chose here, we would say it's a very pleasant dining experience. If you're curious about Chinese vegan dishes or want to impress your non-vegan friends in Melbourne, this could be a nice place to sample some.